14 Aug Crisis Management – 3 PR Nightmares of Summer 2018
Crisis management is something everyone assumes (and hopes) they’ll never need. We all like to think that our pasts can be forgotten or erased over time. After all, who cares what happened years ago, right? It doesn’t even cross your mind that a picture of you drinking from a keg back in college might pop up via a Google search or that the private conversation you had with a friend years ago about race relations in the U.S. might become viral on Twitter. But the thing about crises is they happen when you least need or expect them to. Maybe at a time when you’re making major career moves, establishing professional connections or building a strong reputation. The last thing you need is a Facebook post from 5 years ago of you smoking pot to pop back into your life and remind you of your dumb decisions.
Summer 2018 saw major industry leaders thrust into the spotlight for reasons they hoped had been buried under the dirt of time; from a past conversation involving the N-word to past affairs with staffers. Let’s take a look at a few crisis situations and how they were handled.
1. Intel CEO Krzanich Resigns Over Past Affair with Staffer
The electronic giant launched an investigation in June 2018 when they caught wind that their CEO, Brian Krzanich, had a consensual affair with an employee. Their relationship violated the company’s strict non-fraternization policy. “Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel’s values and adhere to the company’s code of conduct, the Board has accepted Mr. Krzanich’s resignation,” said Intel’s statement. Intel quickly released the news, being 100% transparent with the media (a must!) and the public and took the next steps to replace the CEO as soon as possible. Boards are increasingly less tolerant of CEOs behaving badly.
2. Netflix Fires CCO for Use of N-Word
Netflix is the leader of the pack when it comes to streaming giants. This summer, they had to make changes to their internal leadership. CCO Jonathan Friedland was immediately let go when it came to light that he used the N-word on more than one occasion, despite staffers repeatedly telling him it was inappropriate and racially insensitive. After the Board got wind him of using the term in staff meetings, they had to let Jonathan go. Reed Hastings, CEO of the streaming company, wrote that use of such language “showed unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity, and is not in the line with our values as a company.” The takeaway: Netflix responded swiftly and showed their staff is their priority.
3. Papa John’s Founder Resigns from Board
Papa John’s is a well-known pizza franchise and dominates football season (along with Pizza Hut). In July 2018, the founder John Schnatter was thrust into the spotlight and bombarded with the type of attention he was not used to after it had come to light that he had used the N-word during a conference call. Almost immediately, the marketing firm representing Papa John’s cut ties with the company. John then released a public apology – but that did not stop the sword from coming down heavily. Not only did he end up resigning, but unfortunately Papa John’s was the pizza sponsor for the NFL and the last thing the NFL needed was another controversy this year. The NFL quickly ended their sponsorship contract and replaced Papa John’s with Pizza Hut.
Public relations and crisis management go hand-in-hand. Companies big and small should always be on their toes and take the responsibility of protecting their reputation. People (of all backgrounds and ages) are the driving force behind your business and the leaders and staff of your company are the personal ambassadors of your brand. And people have pasts and make bad judgment calls. Don’t wait until something pops up.
In a crisis, GillespieHall is your first responder. Our swift, knowledgeable response and crisis management services guide you through potentially devastating situations. Take immediate action. Safeguard your business. Protect your reputation and your brand. Contact us before the mess hits the fan.