Another Crisis Brewing for Elon Musk and Tesla- How to Respond

Most people know Elon Musk is controversial but he’s close to igniting a new crisis with one of his most passionate and loyal groups of Tesla followers.

I wrote an article in Forbes a few years ago that detailed warning signs your brand is about to blow up and a crisis is emerging. If ignored, your brand becomes ripe for a crisis. This latest media coverage on Tesla is a clear warning sign to their stock owners who worry about pricing pressures and future EV sales.

Tesla owners are one of the few remaining groups who have stuck alongside Musk even after his divisive tweets, controversial statements and media comments. The media is now beginning to circle around Teslas that can’t charge in the cold, leaving drivers stranded. Chicago media was all over this story last week, calling Tesla charging stations “car graveyards.”

Another article in the global publication, The Express, is taking this communications crisis to a higher level. The story interviewed angry drivers who had to wait in 45-minute lines in Brooklyn and Queens to charge their vehicles because of a charging station shortage.

Continue reading “Another Crisis Brewing for Elon Musk and Tesla- How to Respond”

Why Lying is not a Crisis Strategy

By Mark Macias

Business owners, politicians and entrepreneurs can all learn a lot about handling a crisis by watching how the Trump administration continues to handle – or mishandle – the Russia collusion investigation.

I’ve run many crisis campaigns for clients in the financial, nonprofit and political sector. A political campaign in itself is always in crisis mode as candidates continue to dig up dirt on the competition. Likewise, the crisis campaigns I ran in the nonprofit and financial space were more centered around protecting their well established brands.

The first thing I always tell clients in any crisis situation: Never lie. Don’t lie to reporters. Lying is not a crisis strategy.

I wrote about this in my business book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. The second half of my book is devoted to handling negative news. Chapter 6 provides 10 Defensive Decrees that you can apply to any crisis situation.

Continue reading “Why Lying is not a Crisis Strategy”

Media Advice for your Spokesperson

By Mark Macias

The Daily Caller recently asked me to write an editorial, giving advice to the next White House spokesperson. What can she do to get off to a better start than press secretary Sean Spicer? What should she do differently to improve the White House relationship with the media?

You can read that article here if you like politics. But let’s bring it back to your business. How do you empower your spokesperson, PR team or communications director so he or she can succeed on the job? Continue reading “Media Advice for your Spokesperson”

Crisis Communications – Behind the Scenes

By Mark Macias

If your business faces a crisis in communications, you need an experienced crisis manager.

During my time as an Investigative Producer, Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York, I had an insider view on how to manage the crisis. I was literally publishing the crisis, giving me unique insight on how to manage the bad news.

Crisis communications typically also involves a pattern of coverage and once you understand it, you will have a better grasp of managing the negative news.

Crisis Communications Case Study

On February 14th, 2007– Valentines Day of all days – a snowstorm blanketed the Northeast. Every major airline grounded their flights, but for more than a week, JetBlue was at the center of a negative media firestorm.

The problem: Jetblue kept passengers on the tarmac for several hours, and flight attendants refused to let them off, even though their flight was obviously not going anywhere.

Angry passengers quickly took pictures of themselves inside the cramped cabins and shared them on social media. Other savvy Jetblue passengers called the TV news organizations while they were locked inside the plane. They complained on live TV of inhumane conditions. Some passengers said they couldn’t go to the bathroom and weren’t given any food.

Crisis Communications Lesson

Jetblue Airlines did everything wrong when it came to managing the message. The airline took several days to respond to the accusations that they treated their customers like animals. And by the time Jetblue did respond, it was too late because most consumers had already made up their minds.

Jetblue could have better managed the message if it would have engaged in a more aggressive PR strategy. I would have advised Jetblue to immediately address the customer service problem and communicate it directly with the media.

I would have led an aggressive crisis communications strategy, telling Jetblue to go on the offensive with the media, reminding journalists that weather delays are outside of their control. The airline should have admitted a few flight attendants made a wrong decision, but Jetblue was going to reward those passengers with a free airline flight to any city where the airline flies. It was a small amount to pay for redirecting the negative news.

Reporters need angry customers expressing their feelings. By offering a financial incentive for their poor customer service, Jetblue would have silenced most of its critics. And if a story lacks angry characters, the drama quickly fades.

It’s a pattern of coverage, and once you understand how that coverage is transcribed, you will have a better grasp of managing any crisis situation.

Macias PR was named the 2017 Strategic PR Firm of the Year and 2016 and 2015 top PR Firm of the Year – USA by Finance Monthly. The founder – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He is also a PR contributor with CNBC, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice on timely business topics.

UnGoogle Yourself – Push Negative News off the Web

By Mark Macias

It’s easy to Google yourself, but it’s much harder to UnGoogle yourself.

What can you do when the search engines start information that is unflattering – or worse – not true? Is it possible to get it removed?

A few years ago, I was approached by an established financial consultant who discovered Google was leading people to a false article that falsely accused him of ethical violations. These types of allegations can destroy any person’s business but in the financial industry, it can close your practice overnight.

For months, the financial consultant hired an attorney who tried unsuccessfully to get the article pulled down.

Then, he reached out to MaciasPR.

UnGoogle Yourself

This form of crisis communications will only grow in the future as more bloggers and news organizations post articles on the Internet. It will also become more rampant as younger and more inexperienced journalists are hired by the larger news organizations.

If you find a negative news story appearing on the web, there are several steps you can take to get the material removed from the Internet.

Contrary to the popular saying, “the Internet is written in ink,” it is possible to change the story if you apply some proven crisis communications strategies. Here are some of the strategies I learned during my career as an Investigative Producer with NBC, CBS and American Journal that will help you in these situations.

Understand the Difference between Libelous, Slander and Opinion

If a blogger writes that you smell, you can’t take legal action to bring down a story, but if he writes a factually inaccurate article that accuses you of wrongdoing and harms your business, you do have a legal right to bring down story. And you don’t always need an attorney for this. Sometimes a strongly worded letter that outlines the bullet points from above is enough to get the publisher’s attention.

You need to complain to the people who control the money. Your letter to these power brokers needs to state why this article is inaccurate and most important, how the article has financially harmed your business. If you can’t show any financial duress from the article, you won’t succeed in the court of law or with the publisher.

Go after the Power Brokers

When a negative story is published, most people, like the financial consultant, contact the writer to complain, but that’s like complaining to the sales clerk when the cashier gives you the wrong change.

We were able to get that negative story pulled down on the financial consultant because we went after the power brokers – the parent company of the company and explained how their story was inaccurate. No publisher will pull down a negative story that is accurate, but if you can prove that the story in inaccurate or libelous, you will succeed in getting it corrected.

Push the Article off the first Google Page with New Content.

Another strategy you can take to bury a negative article is through new content. That means write more content on that same topic that will ultimately lower the ranking of the negative news story. If the article is false and inaccurate, don’t be afraid to fight back. Just make sure you’re not picking a fight over someone’s opinion because luckily the First Amendment still protects us from that. Want to learn more? Click here to watch a TV news story where Mark Macias gives CBS in Phoenix advice on how to UnGoogle yourself.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

 

Your Image with Crisis PR

By Mark Macias

It’s not what you say, but you do that is remembered by others, yet surprisingly few people remember this during a crisis situation.

Sociology studies show body language makes up 55 percent of our communications and when it’s replayed on TV, it becomes even more pronounced.

The former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, seemed to forget this during his crisis that forced him out of office.

For those who don’t remember, he was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s old US Senate seat.

But the crisis visual got worse when the cameras were rolling and decided to go for a job, knowing full-well that the media wanted to ask him questions.

He put on his running shoes, left his home, and a throng of reporters pursued him while he ran away from them. He apparently didn’t think ahead into what this image would say to viewers watching the news.

Television needs a visual to support the story, otherwise it’s just radio.

TV reporters always new video to advance the day’s story.

Blagojevich gave reporters their new visual that kept him in the news cycle. In addition, he gave TV reporters video they could write to.

If you are ever ambushed by a reporter, don’t run from the camera or put your hand in front of it. That will only make you look guilty.

Instead, be polite the reporter and explain why you will speak with the reporter if he or she takes the time to call your office.

As a former investigative producer with American Journal, CBS and NBC, I can tell you reporters love the ambush interview because it makes for great TV. Viewers stay tuned when they see a clip showing a person running from the camera – and believe it or not, they like it when you push their camera away.

So next time you are in a crisis mode, don’t let your image take a back seat to kindness. The camera will thank you for it.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

How to Break Bad News to Others (or the Media)

By Mark Macias

You probably don’t realize it, but crisis communications skills are used almost every day in your personal life.

Why were you late to dinner?

What do you think of the new young hire?

Did you follow-up with the potential client?

All of these questions have double-blades that can get you into trouble.

Crisis Communications Advice for Business Owners

Here are a few principals you can apply from my crisis communications book – Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. These are tactics I learned from my media career as an investigative producer when everyone on the other side of the camera was the villain.

Be Transparent

If you project any vibe that you are hiding something, clients will run from you and the media will run to you.

The best investigative stories have conflict and when reporters discover a subject lied in their interview, they have instant conflict for the story.

As a journalist, my radar flashed red lights when I noticed the interviewed subject was avoiding my questions. Be direct with your response. Don’t mince words when asked direct questions or reporters (or anyone else) will become suspicious.

Stay Ahead of the News

It is much easier to put out a fire before it starts and it’s no different with the media.

You can better manage negative news when you are in control of the message.

I’ve run several crises campaigns for nonprofits and politicians where their lawyers were closely involved with the media strategy. Of course, their attorneys wanted them to say “no comment” for legal purposes, and I understand why. But in the court of public opinion, this approach doesn’t work.

When it comes to journalism, you give reporters cart-blanch to write any story if you refuse to comment. Don’t make it easy for them.

Don’t Lie

You get caught lying and all credibility is lost. It might seem easier to lie your way out of the problem when you think no one will know, but trust me, that is myopic. And if you’re dealing with a seasoned investigative journalist who has prepared for your interview, you are in more danger by lying when the cameras are rolling.

Just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner about that. If you forgot about that lie, it’s on YouTube and will likely be there for eternity. (Here’s an article I wrote on why I suspected he was lying before he confessed. Hint: he forgot.) Yet another reason to tell the truth. You won’t forget what you said years down the road when your story is emblazoned on the Internet.

Macias PR was named the 2016 “Financial PR Firm of the Year – USA” and the 2015 “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. We have launched and led media campaigns for clients in healthcare, finance, tech and the nonprofit sectors. The founder of Macias PR – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He is also a PR contributor with CNBC, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice on timely business topics.

Negative Political Press

By Mark Macias

In the political press game, you’ve got to respond to bad press, quickly and loudly.

If you don’t defend yourself, people will assume you are guilty. It’s a form of public opinion that goes back to high school.

Remember when you used to hear rumors about someone in high school? You always assumed the gossip was true unless the person came out and denied it in a credible way. The laws of human behavior haven’t changed since then. If a source is credible, most people are going to believe the bad press has merit unless there is a strong denial involved by the accused.

It’s no different in politics.

If your candidate is accused of doing something that he or she didn’t do, make sure your denial is clear and crisp. There must be no reading between the lines. Don’t mince words when you tell the reporter or producer that the allegation is false. And if you talk on television, don’t give viewers an opportunity to draw their own conclusions. Make it easy for them to believe that the accusations are false.

Be clear in your denial.

President Bill Clinton was a master communicator and he articulated his denial to perfection when he told America in 1998 the allegations against him involving Monica Lewinsky were false: “I want to say one thing to the America people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

The President sounded sincere, honest and straightforward in his denial, and many people, including myself, assumed he was the victim of dirty politics.

But What Happens when the Accusations are True?

I’m of the journalism school that subscribes it will almost always hurt you to decline an interview with the media, regardless of whether you are guilty or innocent. If you say no to an interview, you have virtually no chance of shaping the story’s coverage.

However, if you say yes to an interview and artfully prepare your statements you can at least maintain damage control.

There are several reasons why I say it will almost always hurt you to not talk to the media. The most important reason is you give a reporter full reign to pursue his or her story when you decline to speak on the record. You effectively remove a reporter’s checks and balances by refusing to respond to the allegations.

Mark Macias is author of the crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. He has run crisis media campaigns for politicians and nonprofit organizations. You can read more at MaciasPR.com.

 

 

Crisis Communications – Protecting your Brand

By Mark Macias

It was just a little over a decade ago when newspapers wrote what they wanted and TV stations didn’t fear advertisers. The news organizations were cash cows for their influence with consumers, and the community had little alternatives for news sources.

But those days are gone. The New York Daily News – one of NYC’s largest newspaper – is up sale this week even though it is losing a reported $20 million dollars a year. Even its long-time publisher, Mort Zuckerman, is giving up on the news industry.

While this is extremely bad for journalism and democracy (and it concerns me), this weakened news-state can work to your advantage as a business owner. But first, you must understand how the editorial and legal process works inside of the newsrooms.

A story with any legal ramifications doesn’t just appear on television or in the newspapers. Depending on the complexity and litigious risk of the topic, it must go through a rigorous script-approval process that reaches editors and lawyers for the corporation. The more hands that are involved with a script-approval process, the better odds you have of influencing the story’s coverage.

And don’t assume the media doesn’t care about your business or background, especially if you are the center star for an investigative report. Large media organizations, like NBC, CBS, the New York Post, do fear litigation if you have the ability to sue or ignite any underground campaign against the news agency.

Adding more scandal to editorial decision-making, the rumor inside most newsrooms is that the legal team gets a bonus if their news organization is not sued during the year. If that allegation is true, you can bet many people inside of the news organization have an invested interest in making sure you are not slandered.

So the next time you are on the negative end of a story, just remember, you do have an opportunity to give your side of the story. While the power of the ink is still with the media, businesses or people with money will grow in clout if they threaten to fight back from any negative news story.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com

Press Releases – Worth the Money?

By Mark Macias

Clients are always asking me what I think of press releases on the PR newswires.

“Will they help us get publicity with reporters,” they ask.

Even a spokesperson with a New York City agency asked me what I thought of PR newswires. She said her agency approved funding for press releases with the PR newswires.

I used to work with her at CBS, so I threw the question right back at her.

“Did you ever once go to the PR newswires to look for a story when you were at CBS?”

Press Releases – When do they Work and Not Work

But press releases can be extremely helpful depending on your media need and strategy.

The various PR newswires are helpful when your business is trying to get something on the record – like a milestone. If your business is growing faster than the competition, you want to announce it to the world and PR newswires are a great place for these.

But press releases on the PR newswires should never be confused as a media strategy.

Notice the emphasis is on “PR newswires” and not “newswires.”

How PR Newswires Differ

There is a big difference the “newswires,” like the Associated Press, Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters, and the “PR newswires.”

The newswires are actually read by assignment editors, producers and reporters. It’s not easy getting media announcements in the newswires because the news threshold is even higher, but if you can get it picked up by a newswire, other news organizations may run with your story.

Paid press releases with the PR newswires can be an element of a larger media strategy, but before you spend the extra money, ask yourself these questions:

Am I trying to get publicity with journalists? If you are, you will be better pitching the story individually to reporters.

Do I want to get something on the record? If your company has achieved a major milestone, signed a major client, hit an impressive sales number, etc – a press release on the PR newswires is a great means to distribute that message.

Do I need exposure for my new website? A paid press release can help with SEO because the backlinks will potentially help you with search engine ranking.

You can read longer, in-depth stories on these topics at www.prhelp.co.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com