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Crisis communications online: best practices


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These are the slides for a talk I'm giving Friday (6/25/2010) at Stanford's ECommerce Best Practices conference.

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Crisis communications online: best practices

  1. 1. How To…Communicate During A Crisis<br />Shabbir J. Imber Safdar<br />10+ year digital agency veteran<br /><br />Twitter: @ShabbirSafdar<br />Conference hashtag: #slsecom2010<br />
  2. 2. Author / Presenter Background<br />Founder of Virilion Inc, 12+ year old digital agency in Washington DC, Boston, NYC, & Austin specializing in online public affairs campaigns<br />Digital communications experience in the consumer software/hardware, environmental, civil liberties, energy, beer, e-commerce, finance, and entertainment industries.<br />Free ebook: “3 Fundraising Metrics For Your Nonprofit Website” (October 2009)<br />Free ebook: “Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It? Analytics and Measurement Techniques” (April 2010)<br />Current focus is on measurement of communications and digital marketing efforts<br />Ebooks available at<br />
  3. 3. 4 Lessons Of Online Criticism<br />Be cool.<br />Be transparent.<br />Be funny.<br />Be honest.<br />
  4. 4. Ben Popken’s ( 3-step system for fixing corporate gaffes:<br />Admit you were wrong<br />Stop doing the wrong thing<br />Make a material gesture of apology<br /><br />
  5. 5. Apologies Work: Circuit City vs. Mad Magazine<br />In 2008 an overzealous Circuit City employee ordered all copies of Mad Magazine removed from the shelves of all stores due to a Circuit City parody.<br />As the story hit the AP wire, the Circuit City PR team responded with a letter to Mad and the blog that broke it,, with an apology, a self-deprecating joke, and a gift card.<br />The response was lauded by PR people and consumer advocates alike, and earned Circuit City an updated AP story and kudos for coming clean on their mistake.<br /><br />
  6. 6. Greenpeace vs. Nestle<br />
  7. 7. Don’t screw up your apology.<br />From flickr user BlaiseGV on March 19th, 2010<br />
  8. 8. Enforcing Trademark: Ford vs. the Black Mustang Club<br />In 2008, a Mustang enthusiast group attempts to sell it’s calendars of member vehicles through CafePress.<br />A CafePress employee flags the calendars as a trademark violation, based upon the logo on the car showing up in the photos<br />Ford gently negotiates a settlement with their brand evangelists ten days later.<br />Ford goes onto literally every blog and message forum across the entire Internet to defuse the crisis.<br />A factual inaccuracy, that a “Cease and Desist” letter was issued by Ford, was perpetuated fueled by the fact that one of Ford’s law firms has been aggressively protecting their mark by sending such legal notes.<br /><br />
  9. 9. Suppressing online speech: Ralph Lauren vs.<br />In 2009 a heavily and poorly digitally altered model photo from a Ralph Lauren advertisement was published on the website PhotoshopDisasters<br />Culture critics and tastemakers boingboing blogged about it and their Internet Provider received a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown order, which failed the parody test.<br />Boingboing subsequently made it their mission to mock Ralph Lauren. <br />Controversy generated additional print, radio, and online criticism, which is slowly polluting the organic search results for “Ralph Lauren”.<br />Source:<br /><br />
  10. 10. Enforcing Trademark: US Chamber of Commerce vs. The Yes Men<br />In October of 2009, notorious pranksters “The Yes Men” put on a fake press conference pretending to be the Chamber. A real Chamber employee burst in to stop it.<br />They also put up a fake press release online announcing a reversal of the Chamber’s position on global warming.<br />Afterwards the Electronic Frontier Foundation took their case and every legal event is a chance for the Yes Men to flog the Chamber.<br />Coverage included Fox Business, CNBC, Reuters, NYT.<br />The Yes Men’s pranks work best when their targets engage them, as it provides a classic conflict for the press to cover.<br /><br />
  11. 11. Suppressing online speech: Barbra Streisand vs. <br />In 2003 a photographer documenting coastal erosion shot thousands of photographs including one of Streisand’s Malibu home.<br />She lost in court, and drew 400,000+ visitors to the photo.<br />Coined the concept “The Streisand Effect”.<br />Source: Wikipedia<br />It takes talent to get your controversy into Wikipedia, from whence it will never leave.<br /><br />
  12. 12. Reacting Prematurely: George W. Bush vs.<br />In 1999 while campaigning, Bush critics RTMark post website to parody candidate.<br />Real candidate Bush complains to the Federal Election Commission and then says on-air “There ought to be limits to freedom”<br />Traffic to immediately spikes and stays high through the election, providing a platform for critics to reach a much wider audience.<br />Source:<br /><br />
  13. 13. Apologies Work: Motrin vs. Really Angry Moms<br />In November 2008 a small group of moms became outraged by a new Motrin ad at the beginning of a weekend.<br />Motrin wasn’t prepared to respond quickly, and it grew quickly in the vacuum.<br />The brand pulled the ad and published an apology, which caused the issue to burn out pretty quickly.<br /><br />