60 Minutes – Crisis Advice for Allegient Airlines

By Mark Macias

I just watched a 60 Minutes investigation that slammed the budget airline, Allegient Airlines. The investigative reporter described Allegient as the most dangerous airline. If that doesn’t kill a reputation, what will?

Every time I watch an investigative story on TV, I go back to my investigative reporter days and reflect on how I would have defined the story. I also compare how the accused responded in the interview.

So what could Allegient Airlines have done differently to manage this crisis situation?

Continue reading “60 Minutes – Crisis Advice for Allegient Airlines”

Publicity vs Crisis Campaigns – The Different Strategies

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By Mark Macias

Crisis campaigns are always run differently than publicity campaigns. With a publicity campaign – especially for tech startup campaigns, the narrative is established before any reporter is pitched and when the campaign is executed effectively, the message should remain on point.

But with crisis campaigns, the script changes as the negative news develops. This is why one of the best strategies for crisis communications is to always get in front of the story. Don’t wait until a reporter has the story before you begin addressing the problem. Also, don’t avoid the negative news. Instead, address it straight on.

Here’s a recent article I wrote for CNBC that uses a real-life example as a crisis communications case study. In this situation, the person in the middle of the scandal – Charlie Sheen – executed this crisis campaign to near perfection. Click here to read the story.

Macias PR was named the 2015 “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. The firm was founded by Mark Macias – a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. Macias is a weekly contributor with CNBC.com and author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media, which has been featured in the NY Times, Fox Business, NY Post and others. Macias PR has run media campaigns for tech startups, financial groups, service providers, nonprofits and politicians.

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.

When One Employee Inspires a Crisis

By: Mark Macias

Rupert Murdoch runs a global media empire that includes Fox News, Fox Business News, The Wall Street Journal, Fox Television Network, The New York Post, 20th Century Fox – and others, making him one of the most powerful people in the world.

When it came to influencing readers, Murdoch holds the ink that moves the pen.

But cracks in Murdoch’s concrete empire began to appear in 2011 after a few employees were accused of illegally hacking into voicemails of the British Royal family.

You don’t need to run a global media empire for this type of crisis to impact your company. It only takes one rogue employee to create negative news that splashes your business name on the front pages of the local newspaper.

There is no universal crisis communications book or one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to managing a crisis situation. Each case is individual based on the situation, but here are a few rules that apply to all crises, regardless of the scandal.

1) Get to the bottom of the truth as quickly as possible.

“I don’t know,” can be an acceptable response in the early stages of a crisis as long as it is followed up with “let me find the answers.” Reporters won’t walk away just because you can’t answer their questions, but they will give you time to research it. So if you are learning in real-time that your employees may have engaged in any unethical or illegal behaviors, it is your job to get to the bottom of it quickly.

2) Hold the Guilty Accountable. 

If you discover an employee engaged in any illegal behavior, fire him. It sends a strong message to the media that your company won’t condone any form of behavior that breaks the law.

Likewise, many professions — like journalism — involve ethical standards. If you discover that your employees violated  ethical codes while conducting their jobs, make an example out of them – and don’t be afraid to share it with the media. The public is more forgiving once they realize it is less likely for your mistakes to happen again.

3) Be Open With Your Findings. You may not like what your employees did, but if reporters ask you specific questions, don’t be evasive with your answers. Allow yourself to be human and share your disappointment with the media. Contrition is a trait that makes us all relate to one another.

4) Be Prepared to Announce New Policies. If your internal investigation into the crisis discovers a systemic problem, now is the time to announce a change in policy.

This crisis communications advice isn’t just for business owners. It’s practical information that can apply to managers, political leaders, public personalities, or anyone who could become the face of a scandal.

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 crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias has consulted politicians and nonprofits on their crisis communications strategies. He now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

 

 

 

 

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 – The NRA

By: Mark Macias

(This story was originally published in 2013 following a school shooting. Here’s a shortened edited version of that article)

I don’t like the sight of guns. I don’t like the smell of guns. I don’t even like talking about guns, but the NRA is delivering a great crisis communications lesson for any business facing an image crisis.

Here’s what the NRA did wrong and right in their crisis following a 2013 school shooting.

The NRA let time pass

The NRA waited for time to pass. Frequently, I advise clients to get in front of the story or else the narrative will be written by your opponent, but this is a perfect crisis communications case study where that does not apply to ALL problems. The NRA would have been foolish to speak while children were being buried.

That is pretty much one of the few things I believe the NRA did right following that horrific school shooting. Here is a more detailed list of what they did wrong, along with why it was a poorly executed communications plan.

Don’t Cast Blame

Wayne LaPierre with the NRA blamed the media, video games and even crazy people for their PR problem. That’s a mistake. The NRA thinks Americans should have the right to carry assault rifles that were designed for war. They need to take responsibility for that position and not blame others. If you are in a crisis situation, don’t blame the victim or even the shooter. Turn the situation into your favor by presenting why your side has a positive view. The media won’t report the good side of your story unless you present it and it is your job to communicate why your service helps others.

Put a face on the problem

Right now the NRA is facing a tough public image problem. It’s guns vs. little children.

That’s challenging because most parents and adults have instincts to protect children from harm. It’s a difficult fight, but the NRA needs to put a new face on this problem. They need to move the conversation away from assault rifles and back to the image of a father and daughter hunting together. As long as the debate surrounds military assault rifles, the NRA loses.

Bring a solution

If you are facing a crisis communications situation, you always want to bring closure to the problem. It lets the public believe (and hopefully it is the truth) that the problem won’t happen again. The NRA tried to bring closure to this problem by saying armed guards in front of our schools would prevent violence. It won’t or as a Facebook friend more eloquently posted, it’s like bringing a “knife to a gun fight.”

It sums up why the NRA needs a better communications strategy if it is ever going to persuade the parents in America.

 “Hey Mr. NRA douchebag…our banks are protected by armed guards and they still get robbed, our president is guarded by armed secret service and still gets shot and even killed. One armed cop on each campus won’t stop crazy folks from going there. Your press conference was a joke, and you are a joke of a man. Blame the video games, movies and music…yet not offer a single solution to try to keep your precious lil gun out of crazy folks hands. You suck!! Oh yeah, said crazy person comes to school with multiple semi automatic guns…lone cop has a pistol…what’s the saying? Bring a knife to a gun fight? Then your answer will be we need cops with semi automatic rifles you douchetard. Way to bring nothing to the table today except more guns, you kind sir are a complete assbag!!”

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.

 

 

 

PR War vs. PR Battle – Crisis Communications

By Mark Macias

A General must sometimes lose a battle to win a war. That tactic can also be applied to crisis communications.

When a crisis situation hits your business, remember that war adage because sometimes, losing a small customer service battle will help you win the larger public relations war.

It’s an older example from my crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media, but it is a situation that applies to any business today.

How the PR Battle Begins

In December 2007, a Las Vegas man sued his gym for gender discrimination. He filed a formal complaint with the state, alleging the health club was giving preferential treatment to women, which he claimed was discrimination.

This news story had larger ramifications across Nevada since it could potentially end all “Ladies Nights” at bars that offered free drinks to women.

Making matters worse for the gym, the angry customer was vocal with the media.

“Imagine a whites-only country club or whites-get-in-free deal or something like that,” the gym member said. “When things are based on race, we have kind of a knee-jerk reaction because we’ve had poor race relations in America for 400 years now. But when it comes to treating people the same based on sex, that’s much more recent in our memory.”

The gym manager refused to give the member a discount and the PR nightmare grew. The health club was now dealing with national negative publicity that could ruin the pricing structure for bars, nightclubs and casinos. The owner of that gym made many enemies with just one discount refusal. And to think it all would have gone away by appeasing one customer.

Stopping the PR Battle from Becoming a PR War

The health club could have diffused the negative story by saying they were trying a new marketing approach to get more women into their health club, or to even it out.

Management could have added they were reviewing the policy to see if it was fair for men and women. The club could have said they were researching similar discounts that appealed just to men.

But, the club didn’t take that approach. Instead, they went on the attack and the negative publicity got worse.

“Our men are very, very happy with how we conduct our business,” the vice president of the company said. “This particular person is the only one who has had a problem with it. There are legitimate discrimination issues out there, and I wish he’d spend his time addressing those that really need addressing.”

Never turn an angry customer into a victim. You don’t want to give the perception that the victim is really a victim. Don’t give the public a reason to root against you.

There will always be an angry customer. If you get an expressive angry customer, make sure you tread lightly in the battle or risk waging war with others.

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.