Recent controversies involving billionaire media-mogul Oprah Winfrey, New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez, and theme park Six Flags Over Texas had different outcomes and different lessons for crisis communicators:
- Oprah was in a trendy purse shop in Geneva when a sales clerk (who clearly didn’t recognize her customer) refused to show her a $38,000 handbag. Oprah was more than happy to talk about Swiss racism and cleverly tied it to her new movie, Lee Daniels’ The Butler which addresses American racial discrimination. Swiss tourism officials and the shop owner were quick to apologize. Result? Good ink and lots of social media impressions for Oprah and probably the end of the story.
- On the other hand A-Rod is guaranteeing that the drug issue in Major League Baseball will continue to fester like a nasty poison ivy rash. The Yankee infielder is the only player of 13 named in the latest PED (performance enhancing drug) scandal to appeal his suspension. He’ll keep playing during the appeal while means cheers and jeers in every city the Yankees play. It’s hard to know how this will affect the Yankee brand, MLB, and not to mention what’s left of the A-Rod brand.
- Six Flags over Texas lies somewhere between A-Rod and Oprah. After a woman flew out of a roller coaster a couple of weeks ago, the company has been radio silent other than expressing regret and condolence. The company has employed the “Internal Investigation” answer to most inquiries. The theme park is still open and there are still long lines of customers queuing up to ride its coasters.
The three crises fall into broad categories of Flash, Chronic and Predictable. Each has a set of Goals, Strategies and Tactics:
- Flash – like a shooting, or Oprah’s purse incident. Rapid response using multiple communications channels help shorten the news cycle.
- Chronic – much like the BP Gulf oil spill or what’s happening with A-Rod. Major League Baseball has to monitor and adjust its message and figure out how to protect its reputation in the longer-term while the new poster boy of scandal continues to swat at fastballs.
- Predictable – such as a drug recall where you have some time to prepare your message, FAQ’s, and round up 3rd parties to help in your defense. An amusement park can’t predict exactly when it will have an accident, but it’s on the list of possible events every day it’s open for business.
Don’t miss the chance to study each crisis and analyze how it applies to your situation.