Tag Archives: crisis communication

Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Listening to the recent news of the disaster in Texas from Hurricane Harvey, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the scope of the devastation and needs of those affected by the storm. Hurricane Harvey released more than 24.5 trillion gallons of rain, devastating communities and displacing thousands of families and businesses.

But, it is often in times of greatest need that people and companies join together to help those who need it most, without asking for anything in return. Companies are providing money, food, water, donations, and solutions around the area. Some examples:

  • Anheuser-Busch stopped beer production in Georgia to instead produce more than 155,000 cans of water to areas affected by Harvey.
  • Kroger Foundation committed to $100,000 to the Houston Food Back and is donating $5 for every retweet of #KrogerCares.
  • Google pledged $2 million and is also providing urgent information to those in impacted areas, creating a real-time crisis map to help those on the ground.
  • CVS pharmacy is moving its mobile pharmacy trailers into the area to help people with medications, in addition to monetary donations.

It doesn’t stop with companies. Many celebrities and athletes have donated money directly and through foundations to help Texas residents.

Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. Roughly 89% of global citizens think companies should use their unique abilities and assets to lend assistance during a disaster.

It feels good to help.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss with students the social responsibilities that companies have to the public. What is their opinion?
  2. Should companies publicize their contributions?
  3. Divide students into teams. Have each team research online the level of support that has been donated by companies.
  4. One list can be found at https://youtu.be/hANXIPxN1ME
  5. Build a list on the white board of the companies, donation amount, and items.
  6. Discuss the role of crisis communication during dire times.

Source:  Texas Tribune, CNN, CNBC, New York Times, other news sources

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How to Not Handle a Crisis: United Airlines

While companies plan for success and upbeat public relations stories, most companies do not plan for crisis situations or public relations snafus. But, they all should do so, as was recently experienced by United Airlines.

First, there was a ‘leggings scandal’ when the airline refused to seat “pass travelers” (employees and dependents traveling free on a standby status) who were wearing leggings, and thus not judged to be dressed appropriately. This one was noteworthy on social media, but not troublesome.  Puma jumped on the social media trend and offered 20% off leggings at its U.S. stores to anyone who brought in a United Airline ticket!

However, the next situation was much more serious as United Airlines had a man dragged off a flight when he refused to give up his seat (due to overbooking), so that a United employee could fly instead of him. The man suffered a broken nose, concussion, and lost two front teeth, according to lawyers representing him in a lawsuit against United Airlines. There was no transparency into how customers were selected to be bumped off the flight.

The company was slow to apologize to the man, and the entirety of the plane’s passengers. It now faces a crisis communications situation. What should it do?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the role of public relations and crisis communications in a brand’s promotional mix.
  2. Discuss the problem that United Airlines faced. Various videos of the event are available online: https://youtu.be/VrDWY6C1178
  3. What are the student opinions of this incident? Are these actions legal, or ethical?
  4. Divide students into teams and have each team prepare a crisis communication plan for the above situation.
  5. What elements and needed in the plan?
  6. Teams can also research other public relations disasters to see how each was handled. (Remember Chipotle, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Wells Fargo?)

Source:  New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, other news sources   

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Crisis Communication: Largest Smartphone Recall


The true test of a company’s marketing strength often comes to the front when a company is faced with crisis communication regarding its products or services. And this month, it’s Samsung’s turn in the spotlight for problems with its high-end smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7. The issue is that some customers have reported that their phones have caught fire due to the lithium-ion batteries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Division, in the U.S. there have been 92 reports of batteries overheating, 26 reports of burns, and 55 reports of property damage.

Samsung reacted quickly to the issue, but it has been a far from smooth process so far. No wonder – there are more than 2.5 million units of the Galaxy Note 7 in circulation, making it the largest recall of smartphones. Statements from Samsung and the Consumer Product Safety Division have not been totally in sync either, causing confusion among the smartphone owners as to the correct process to use.

Airlines are making multiple warnings that caution owners not to turn on the phones while on airplane. (Note: I was one several planes last week and heard multiple announcements about not using the phones on the planes – thanks, airlines!) This issue will undoubtedly hurt Samsung sales and stocks, particularly in conjunction with the recent announcements of new iPhone models. Replacement phones are due to be available in the U.S. by the end of September.

Be safe.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: How many have a Galaxy Note 7? How does the recall impact the students’ perceptions of Samsung?
  2. Discuss crisis communications and the importance of companies having a plan in place BEFORE a crisis occurs.
  3. View Samsung’s statement: http://news.samsung.com/us/2016/09/09/samsung-confirms-engagement-with-cpsc-consumer-product-safety-commission-in-response-to-note7-battery-issue/
  4. Have students review the statement and recall instructions. They might also use laptops to research the various instructions.
  5. View the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site information: http://www.cpsc.gov/
  6. What other products have safety issues? How will these impact a company’s sales and brand?
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team put together a crisis communication plan for a company. (Examples: food recalls, automotive recalls, etc.) Include press release, news outlets, and recall/replacement process.

Source: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, other news sources

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