Price Waterhouse may lose Oscars, but not overall reputation

By now, everyone’s aware of the human error at the Oscars Sunday night that led to Faye Dunaway reading the wrong best picture winner — La La Land.

And, social media has not been kind to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that handled Oscar voting and tabulation for eight decades.

But as mistakes, scandals and crises go, this is not huge. Most experts say the mix-up could cost the second-largest American accounting firm its Oscar gig, but it won’t hurt it with corporate customers.

The bottom line is safe. Image result for moonlight oscars

This wasn’t a scandal, involving voter fraud — or even Russian hacking. This was a simple screw-up. The wrong envelope went out on stage. Plain as day when you watch the replay. Moonlight [right] won for best picture, fair and square. No one took anything away and the fix was fast.

If some nefarious Price Waterhouse partner had rigged the vote, or skewed the decisions in some way with overt cheating, that would undermine the company. You don’t want to be the PWC partner who messed up, but it’s not the end of the world.

To the company’s credit, it apologized immediately, did its best to explain what caused the mistake  and, you can be sure, talked to the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences about how this would never happen again.

In 2008, when the economy was collapsing and Too Big to Fail banks had to turn out their pockets, major American accounting firms were shown to be complicit with the banks’ creative bookkeeping. That’s when they took hits to their reputation.

This was an individual mistake; not a corporate one. Further, it was not the sort of error that can be easily tied back to a bad corporate culture.

This is an embarrassment, not a crisis for PWC.

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 Senior Vice President/Managing 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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Annual look at how crisis hurts

Other than President Trump, who seems to thrive by crisis, the annual look at how crises hurt brands is out and it reinforces why companies need to be prepared and deal with a crisis openly and effectively.

Or else.

Thanks to the ever well-read Eric Mower, we have Ad Week’s report on a compendium of brand winners and losers on this score in 2016.

The losers? You might have guessed: Chipotle, Wells Fargo, Samsung, Trump Taj Mahal, and Wells Fargo Advisors. That has to be the first time one company scored worst for two brands. The bank, of course, was the center of an enormous controversy involving bank salespeople opening accounts for customers without their permission. The CEO was canned. Congress got involved. Bad juju.

Samsung had exploding phones; Chipotle served contaminated food; and Trump’s brands are under assault all over.

Here are the top 10 improving brands — counted no doubt prior to Uber’s latest mess that broke last weekend.

The scores come from polling by YouGov of 1.2 million people about 1,500 brands.

Generated by social media and picked up by legacy media, the good and the bad support or kill brands. Especially in the consumer sector, where competition abounds, the issues plaguing the hurt brands mean consumers just go elsewhere. Why eat at Chipotle and risk illness? I’ll go to McDonald’s or BK or a local diner. Don’t need a Galaxy Note 7 when I can get an iPhone or some other smartphone. And banks? There’s one on every corner.

And, as is true of most companies hit by a crisis, bad news hurts more than good news helps. Consumers expect Uber to be on time; they shop at Amazon because it delivers on its promises; it loves Nike because it’s so smart and cool. And so on.

But when a brand tanks, it takes dramatic, long-term remediation. Look at Domino’s Pizza, which ran a campaign saying its pizza was terrible and it was committed to improving it. Subway’s reputation still hasn’t bounced back from the Jared scandal. And the list goes on.

Here are the Top 10 highest rated brands:

Even these must expect a crisis. Have a plan for dealing with it. Communicate that plan internally. Make sure to take responsibility, apologize, fix the problem and commit to improvement.

Or, get on the list of the Bad Five.

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 Senior Vice President/Managing 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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Uber crisis shows power of social media

If allegations by a former Uber engineer are true — and they ring that way — the ride-sharing company has a problem for tolerating sexual harassment.

The response by Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick was strong, and hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the allegations was a smart move.Image result for susan fowler uber

 

But the real attention getter here — again — is the power of one person on social media.

As The New York Times reported, “The engineer, Susan Fowler, [right] said that she was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor during her time at Uber and that after she reported those claims to the human resources department, they were ignored. She gave her account in a lengthy post on her personal blog on Sunday.”

What’s this actually saying?

That when she worked at Uber, Fowler went to her HR department and complained about her supervisor. She received no relief. But now, as an ex-Uber employee, she wrote a blog post about her experiences and the world sat up and noticed. Kalanick responded fast and furious.

And Fowler patched in to national angst and anger about sexual harassment in the workplace, especially in Silicon Valley, where male-dominated engineering companies abound.

The greater lesson here is that one employee, going public on social media, can bring a company to its knees — whether the social posts are true or not.

Companies and organizations that fail to grasp that reality play games with their future and stock price. What Fowler could not achieve as an employee — ridiculous as it is to contemplate in retrospect — she turned into a groundswell of action as a blogger.

Think about that.

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 Senior Vice President/Managing 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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Turning from crisis to proactivity

Twelve days into the Trump presidency, it might be useful to turn from what many see as multiple crises to … proactivity.

Indeed, proactivity is often the inoculation for crisis.

Today we commend the Boy Scouts of America and USA Football for identifying their potential challenges in advance and getting out ahead of them — before they become debilitating crises.

The Boy Scouts, roundly criticized for many years for blocking gay scoutmasers and gay boy scouts, announced this week that transgender members of both groups would be welcome. Amid the cacophony generated by the president’s tweets and the White House edict machine — was any other U.S. Supreme Court nominee named on prime time television? — the Boy Scouts smartly moved to thwart a fight.

Agreeing with the decision or not is beside the point of this discussion. That the Boy Scouts identified a potential minefield, studied the issue, made the decision and announced it starkly contrasts with its earlier dustup over gay scouts.

In a similar move, USA Football, the governing body for football leagues with players 13 and under, changed its rules. The rules are designed to limit or even end injuries and hard hits, especially those that cause concussions.

Purists critical of both decisions nonetheless have to admire the willingness to change, to grow, to listen.

For youth football, the changes may also be a concession to sustainability. Fewer parents than in recent decades are permitting their children to play football, as it’s currently constituted. But seeing a decline in participation and doing something to stem it can often be parallel rail lines that never meet in stubborn organizations.

No doubt, critics of both will cite tradition and toughness and rue “political correctness.” But from a reputation-management point of view, these two organizations listened, acted smartly and should benefit.

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 Senior Vice President/Managing 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 ‘loyal opposition’ can’t exist in perpetual crisis mode

A lot of people, especially a lot of women, remain furious that Donald J. Trump is president.

The arguments are well-known and understood. But barring something remarkable, he will be president for at least another four years.

An estimated 3.5 million people marched in all 50 states last weekend to protest his presidency, policies and personality.

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And many asked during and after, what’s next? ‘How do we perpetuate this movement?’

Many have suggestions, few have answers. But there is one certainty: Years of experience working with CEOs, companies and non-profits demonstrate that no one can survive in crisis mode for very long. It’s too emotional and burnout is real.

There are many, many people who just can’t assimilate Trump into their view of a president. It’s an alternate universe they can’t reach. And with sales of Orwell’s 1984 booming, there are a lot of worried people.

There are some lessons we can draw from crisis management.

First, you can’t drink Niagara Falls all at once. And that’s what many critics feel like. If you’re on social media many times a day venting your frustrations, you’re only going to stoke those. Take small sips. Be strategic and thoughtful. Don’t condemn everything.

Second, develop your messaging and stick to it. Are opponents looking back to the election or forward to White House policy? Are they tying up the phone lines of Trump properties and resorts out of spite because, as Trump administration officials say, they’re sore losers? What is the “loyal opposition’s” strategy for this year, and next? Is it, we’ll see you in court? Develop one.

Third, since last weekend’s demonstrations were probably the largest popular protests since the height of the Vietnam War, look to history. What worked? What didn’t? What can opponents learn from the ’60s?

One thing is certain, no matter how dedicated, how distraught, how angry opponents are, they’re only in the first mile of a marathon. Stay out of crisis mode. Get logical.

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 Senior Vice President/Managing 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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Beware of the unanticipated crisis, and prepare

As President-elect Donald Trump today becomes President Trump, it’s worth speculating about what he might face in terms of unforeseen crises.

The ones we can see, in the forefront or on the horizon, are relatively easy. It’s the ones we can only imagine that tie our hands. And they are the ones individuals and companies must prepare to face.

For instance, President Obama in 2008 didn’t expect the economy to tank into the worst recession of our generation. In 2001, President Bush didn’t expect 9/11. We can be certain that President Clinton didn’t expect his private affairs to become public, but they did.

Going back further, President Nixon thought Watergate would remain a second-rate burglary. President Truman didn’t expect to become president and have to unleash the atom bomb. And while President Roosevelt faced the Great Depression, he didn’t take office expecting to fight World War II.

For all the talk of President Trump’s agenda — repeal Obamacare, change immigration laws, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and Make America Great Again — history tells us those initiatives are easily derailed by urgent and unexpected crisis.

Which is why people ask whether a president, any president, is equipped and ready to deal with perilous times they may not have anticipated. This is why we as voters and citizens try to evaluate candidates on how they will react and lead in the worst of times.

This lesson is worth grasping for CEOs, non-profit leaders and organizational chieftains across the board. Since no one can accurately predict what the next crisis will be, you must be prepared, and prepare your team, to take on the next crisis, from wherever it emerges.

Image result for tom brady garoppolo

Let’s briefly look at successful pro football teams. Since quarterback is the key position, teams back up that position with one or two other quarterbacks, because failure to do so would lead to losses. In fact, each NFL team has 53 players, because coaches and GMs know players will get hurt, play poorly and get in trouble, risking the team’s success. If you look closely at the Falcons, Steelers, Patriots and Packers, you’ll find teams whose depth and superiority in their second- and third-tier players probably contributed to their success as much as their top stars. They are prepared for unforeseen crisis.

A crisis will hit. All you can do is prepare.

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 Senior Vice President/Managing 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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Trump and Twitter, get used to it

This is not about a specific crisis. It’s more about a potential crisis.

So understand this: President-elect Donald Trump is not going to stop using Twitter as his preferred method of policy outreach. Not only does it fit his much-analyzed psychological profile, it works for him. He won with it. He’s not switching gears now.

David Brooks of The New York Times yesterday outlined the case against parsing American foreign and domestic policy into 140-word bites. But unless something drastic happens to break Trump from Twitter love, the world better get ready for it.

trump.png

Brooks argues for tradition, logic and a system steeped in consultation, discussion and thought. As Trump showed his Republican challengers and Hillary Rodham Clinton, he doesn’t operate that way.

And, we should all realize, the old ways Brooks described are either gone or closeted for at least the next four years. Say what you want about Trump, but he grasped the power of social media and he’s not letting go. This may be scary, stupid, upsetting, dangerous and many other things. But it’s now the currency of the realm.

As Brooks writes:

Normal leaders come up with policy proposals in a certain conventional way. They gather their advisers around them and they debate alternatives — with briefing papers, intelligence briefings and implementation strategies.

People best accept that Trump is not “conventional” and he’s not “normal.”

Those methods and days are gone, at least in the Trump White House. And people like Brooks, for all their validity, are bashing their heads against a wall. Social media carried Trump to his constituency, and the voters rejected exactly what Brooks wrote, even if they all don’t realize it.

We’re at a tipping point, folks. The way it’s always been done, from Washington through Obama, ends Jan. 20. Call out any parallel you want. Land lines to smart phones. Newsprint to the web. Horse and buggy to the automobile. Bows and arrows to gun powder. Heck, formal presidential news conferences to Tweets. That’s where we are.

And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can scold Trump and his methods, saying as he did yesterday that “America cannot afford a Twitter presidency.” But the president-elect is not listening and he’s not shamed. He’s defiant, zealous and convinced of his own vision of success.

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 Senior Vice President/Managing 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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