When even Clinton advisors are pleading for her to come clean, she must

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s personal email fiasco has reached the point where her own advisors and some of her key supporters are urging her to come clean.

A group of New York Times reporters interviewed more than 75 key Democrats about the presidential frontrunner’s failure to handle the crisis over her private versus State Department emails. Some even went as far as suggesting — imagine — that she apologize. 

hillThe key measure of a badly handled crisis is that it persists. It continues on because the person or business or organization involved fails to answer all the questions that need to be answered. The best way to combat this is to answer all the questions before they’re asked.

So far, Clinton has only compounded her folly by dancing around the facts. Now even her friends are telling her it’s not good enough.

Consider this comment in the Times’ story:

Rosalind Wyman, a veteran Democratic national committeewoman from California who is also a Clinton supporter, said Mrs. Clinton had not shown enough urgency in battling questions about her judgment, and complained that the campaign’s responses to the controversy — and the federal inquiries that have followed — were becoming only more muddled.

“The only thing Hillary can do, I think, is get out there in front of reporters and take five hours of questions — if that’s what it takes — until people understand her, at least, and hopefully believe her,” Ms. Wyman said. “And we have to have people who are talented, independent experts on classified secrets defending her on television, rather than who we have now.”

The sharks are swimming nearby and they’re not only Republicans. When the early campaign began, Clinton was the acclaimed frontrunner and nominee to be. Now Vice President Joe Biden is likely to enter the race, something he would never have done six months ago. Only now that Clinton is wounded and refusing to pay attention to those wounds is he likely to join the race.

She needs to do all the things these advisors told the newspaper.

“They’ve handled the email issue poorly, maybe atrociously, certainly horribly,” said Edward G. Rendell, a former governor of Pennsylvania and a supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. “The campaign has been incredibly tone-deaf, not seeing this as a more serious issue. She should have turned over the email server at the start, because they should have known they’d be forced to give it up. But at this point, there’s nothing they can do to kill the issue — they’re left just playing defense.”

There is actually much they can do. Stand up, deliver the facts, take responsibility, accept your penalty, apologize and get it behind you.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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This is why Subway needs to answer all questions about Jared Fogle

When news broke this week that former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle would plead guilty to multiple child sexual abuse and child porn charges, Subway had almost no comment.

Image result for fogle subway

That stance persisted this week. Here’s why that’s a really bad idea, poor crisis management and will only serve to prolong the questions about what Subway knew, when it knew it, and whether it ignored information about Fogle so it would continue to make money from his brand.

CNN reports today that the FBI had a woman work undercover to record Fogle comments and requests after she first heard him reference his sexual desire for middle school girls in 2007.

It’s hard to believe that since an FBI investigation started more than eight years ago that Subway heard nothing about Fogle during that time. But let’s give the franchise sandwich company the benefit of the doubt and grant that no one heard anything about Fogle’s sexual proclivities.

Subway officials still have to answer the questions of what did they know and when did they know it? And, walking a media tightrope, they’d better be certain their answers are 100 percent accurate.

This whole situation screams to me that there is a mid-level vice-president or franchisee somewhere in the Subway system who is going to come forward and say something like, “As far back as 2010, I warned so and so about Fogle.”

That’s just how these things roll.

But even if that’s not the case, the company invested so much brand power and advertising dollars in Fogle’s healthy eating that it owes the American public answers to these and other questions.

No comment is not an option, even when your attorneys are concerned about the near-certain lawsuits that will be filed by Fogle’s victims against Subway. You can comment carefully and honestly without risking liability.

Plaintiffs will claim Subway knew, or should have known, what Fogle was doing. That’s what happens when your pitchman is so tightly bound to the company. It’s hard to plead ignorance when he seems one of you.

Until all the questions are answered, Subway is going to have a huge stain on its reputation.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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Fogle saga just gets worse for Subway, which isn’t answering questions it must

The latest and worst news yet involving Subway pitchman Jared Fogle is that he’s about to plead guilty to a lot of really bad things.

As the AP reported today, those include: “that he paid for sex acts with minors and received child pornography that he knew had been secretly produced by the former director of his charitable foundation.”

jaredThis is a major hit for Subway for at least two other reasons beyond the seriousness of  Fogle’s plea: First, Subway locked him in as its pitchman, possibly the worst decision since Hertz and OJ Simpson; and, second, it did not cut him off fast enough when the allegations first surfaced and obviously did not do its due diligence about his life.

If you’re going to put your brand onto the shoulders of one person, you’d best make sure they are worthy of it.

How did Subway handle the latest bombshell?

“We have already ended our relationship with Jared and have no further comment.”

“Jared?” You mean your old pal?

Well, that’s just not going to be good enough. Reporters — not to mention consumers and social media prosecutors — are going to harangue and harass Subway until it answers more questions. For instance:

When did you know this about him?

Why didn’t you know sooner?

Had anyone over the course of your years-long relationship with Fogle made any allegations related to this sort of crime?

Did anyone ever suggest Fogle was involved in such things?

How much did you pay Fogle over the time period involved?

Were those payments the basis of his foundation?

If those payments were the basis of his foundation, what responsibility does Subway take in this criminal enterprise?

Fair or not, these are the questions Subway will be asked. No comment won’t cut it. The sooner these and myriad other questions are answered, the sooner this horrible crisis will ease.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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A webinar to bring into focus five key elements for crisis reputation management

Eric Mower + Associates started in the crisis management arena almost 30 years ago, working with Fortune 500 companies that needed help with overwhelming bad news.

That expertise, built up by a staff of experts, is more easily shared these days, including through an eBook that went out last month.

To supplement this eBook and bring it to life, EMA Managing Partner Greg Loh is hosting a webinar Wednesday [August 19, 2015] starting at 2 p.m.

The gist is this:

Sometimes, Bad Things happen to perfectly good companies and organizations…randomly or by accident. Sometimes, not-so-good people do Bad Things to, for or while working at perfectly good companies and organizations. Other times, companies and organizations cause nasty self-inflicted wounds through bad decisions, thoughtless actions, hubris or just plain cluelessness.

ema ebook 4.15_Page_01

The eBook is a useful guide to a situational reality that multiplied exponentially in the social media era. When EMA started in this realm, three network television shows for 22 minutes each night and newspapers, for a similar duration, were the main examiners of corporate, non-profit and individual crises. Now, there are potentially thousands of eyes on all of us all the time.

Just recently: Tom Brady making Deflategate worse by destroying his phone; Hillary Clinton continuing to deny she did anything wrong with her State Department emails;  The list goes on; and is refreshed weekly, if not daily. Planned Parenthood’s video exposure; Subway’s Jared mess. And so on.

A crisis consuming your company at some point is almost certain.

How to respond? Whether to respond? How to communicate internally? Who should be out front? How to limit the extent of a crisis? These are all aspects of crisis management EMA explains in the eBook.

We also set out five key rules that you might find instructive:

1. If bad news is going to come out anyway, you should release it first, proactively and preemptively.

2. Always reveal and share the bad news with your own people first.

3. Take all your hits in one round. Get all the bad news out at once.

4. The best way to answer tough questions is to answer them before they’re asked.

5. Facts and actions are the only things that trump rumors and speculation.

There are more aspects to successfully managing a crisis, of course, but these are good starters. And as far as coping with inevitability of a crisis, the best time to plan for one, train for one, calmly figure out how best to respond to one, is now. Not when you are in the midst of one.

Please find the eBook at http://bit.ly/1QTnF24. To sign up for Greg’s webinar: http://bit.ly/1gQHFlA

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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Two self-inflicted panderings to women blow up in organizations’ faces

These aren’t really crises, unless you work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or BIC, the French pen people.

[And thanks to my colleague, Allison Conte, and my wife, Liz Kahn, for waving the H*** S***! flags.]

BIC says it’s sorry for pandering to women in an ill-advised South African pitch.

New York Magazine has the report:

To celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa, BIC — the pen company that once developed pens “for her” — attempted to post an empowering message on the company Facebook page. The message — which encourages all women to embrace being a woman by looking like a girl, acting like a lady, and thinking like a man — reads like a twisted spoof of a Dove commercial, or a 1960s tampon ad. After a barrage of angry tweets and Facebook messages, BIC has already issued a weak semi-apology: 

We would like to apologize to all our fans who took offense to our recent Women’s Day Post. We can assure you that we meant it in the most empowering way possible and in no way derogatory towards women. We took the quote from a ‘Women in Business’ blog site. The blog site explains the quote and what its intentions were when it was written. BIC believes in celebrating women and the powerful contribution women make to our society.

Intentions are fine and dandy, but it’s perceptions that content providers need to think through. Did anyone walk around the Societe BIC offices in Clichy, France asking women what they thought of this campaign? [And while we’re at it, is Clichy where cliché came from? Who knew?]

The same sort of self-inflicted wound on the company’s reputation popped up last week when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — in part, no doubt, because No. 1 draft pick, Florida State QB Jameis Winston, was accused of sexually assaulting another student — started a women fan campaign.

Image result for jameis winston nfl uniform

While the head of the ad agency that came up with the RED campaign defended it and noted 500 women signed up well in advance of its official Sept. 10 debut, not everyone was pleased. As the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported:

There was an immediate negative response to RED, which the Bucs launched last week. USA Today called it ” embarrassingly sexist” while the New York Times offered a scathing column: “So, ladies of Florida, toss out your dog-eared copies of ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and slip on your Bucs jersey. The team will give you expert tips on ‘rocking your best Bucs gear’ and the kind of cute D.I.Y. designs that will make your girlfriends jealous.”

RED was similarly pummeled by the Washington Post , the Chicago Tribune, the New York Post , the Los Angeles Times, ESPN and the Denver Post, among others.

The motivations behind these two campaigns are fine, maybe even laudable. Their executions created a perception of pandering. Ask around, see what people think, before you hurt your client’s reputation.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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Measurable hit to Tom Brady’s reputation shows financial impact of his actions

New England Patriots’ star QB Tom Brady’s reputational value tanked in the last few weeks.

His continued defiance about Deflategate is costing him big points on a scale of celebrity marketability. Surely he’s not plunging from millionaire to pauper, but it’s a clear hit on his market value. So far, his sponsors are sticking with him, but will that continue if he doesn’t come clean?

The New York Times today noted that:

According to Peter Laatz, executive vice president of Repucom, a sports and entertainment research firm that administers the Celebrity DBI, an index that quantifies perceptions of thousands of celebrities in various fields, Mr. Brady’s trust score has sunk from a ranking of 863rd (out of 3,579) after the Super Bowl in February to 3,097th (out of 3,755). A big drop came after the Wells report, the independent investigation of the allegedly deflated footballs used when the Patriots won the American Football Conference championship game, was released in May. His appeal ranking is down to 3,635th, from 2,748th.

That puts him on the same level as Macaulay Culkin and Britney Spears.

Ouch. He went from being in the top 25 percent to near the bottom of the rankings.

Clearly, and this is the bottom line of his crisis, this is not because he may have deflated some footballs. It’s because he continues to deny the obvious everyone else can see, refuses to repent and take responsibility and destroyed his phone and with it potential evidence.

That screams coverup. And as we’ve seen many, many times before, dating to the original “gate,” Watergate, the coverup is worse than the crime.

tomThis reputational swan dive potentially means loss of revenue from endorsements. Most pro athletes make more from those sponsorships than they do playing their chosen games.

And as the Times reports:

Mr. Brady is married to the model Gisele Bündchen. The two attend the Met gala together, they built an eco-mansion in Los Angeles featured in Architectural Digest together, and then sold it for a reported $40 million to Dr. Dre together. They are often photographed romping in the surf in Costa Rica with their children. They are even signed to Under Armour together.

This both heightens and broadens their appeal, and raises the stakes. Indeed, the closest comparison to their potential pulling power may be the David Beckham/Victoria Beckham combination.

Stay tuned.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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Hillary Clinton’s email crisis will persist until she answers all the questions

Hillary Clinton knew at her news conference about her email practices while Secretary of State that her explanations were thin and faulty.

You could see it in her lack of eye contact, defensive body language and weak answers to questions. She had no more confidence in what she was saying March 10 than the media did listening.

Image result for hillary clinton emails

Her crisis will persist until she fully answers all the questions, takes responsibility for any wrongdoing and fully explains her motivation to the American public.

The latest indications that this crisis still rages is growing talk that Vice President Joe Biden could enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Only a wounded Clinton would have to endure such an affront. Polls show her negatives soaring.

And, The Washington Post reported today that the FBI is looking into the security of Clinton’s private e-mail setup.

A key to managing a crisis is not looking at the original spark, even if that’s major. It’s about the duration. A successfully managed crisis goes away in a couple of days. Poorly managed ones persist for weeks and months. Clinton, who obviously has access to the best crisis managers, clearly is not listening to any of them.

It doesn’t matter what she’s hiding — unless she broke the law, in which case she’s going down sooner or later anyway. That too will come out.

But if she did nothing worse than bend a few rules, she ought to come out and say that, take her hits all at once, and get this behind her. Her efforts to date are faltering and ineffective — and that prolongs the crisis.

She’s a smart woman, bordering on brilliant. She wants to be president. This is a relatively minor speed bump in the race to the Democratic nomination. Sweep it away. Tell the truth. Admit to arrogance. Admit to hubris. Take responsibility for following dumb advice. But just do it.

Surely she’s been buffeted by a great many “scandals” in her political life, some legitimate, others not so much. Maybe that’s made her defensive; maybe all she knows is how to fight back.

That only compounds the mess and her dilemma. Step up, take responsibility, accept whatever sanctions may come her way, and end this.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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