Webinar presenter Rob Weinhold answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Art of Crisis Leadership. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: A number of agencies have been recently impacted by events that trigger investigations like officer-involved shootings and ransomware. How do we balance our response when full disclosure is desired but the reality is we cannot impact the ongoing remediation and investigation.
Rob Weinhold: Organizations find themselves in a situation where they know a hundred points of fact and can only talk about a few of them. So what I recommend is you never ever want to do anything that disrupts the integrity of the investigation no matter how hot the political pressure is or the court of public opinion or whatever the case may be. Because I always say the process is as important as the outcome. So there are a hundred things that I don’t think the public should know at this point for very logical reasons of try to isolate the 2 or 3 points I can talk about but certainly explain why it is I can’t talk about the other elements. And one thing I just really dislike is the term “no comment”, right? There is a comment and you can talk about what is why it is that you’re not going to release certain facts and people need to understand that. But again, a lot of leaders I see they get to the court of public opinion, they feel tremendous pressure. Again, whether it’s politically motivated or just leaders are typically optimistic and they’re out in front and they want to please the audience or the people that are asking them questions. And a lot of times they go over the line and so I say the way to combat that is to absolutely have command of the facts, know exactly what your messaging line stops and starts, stay within those boundaries but give a reason regarding why you can’t talk about the other elements or answer the questions. Don’t just say, “no comment”, don’t get smug and remember that the reporters aren’t attacking you as a person, they’re trying to tell their story and you can do everything in a very very professional manner and not show the emotion that some people find themselves falling in the trap and doing.
Audience Question: Rob have you helped industries who feel that they do not need to respond to a crisis until it comes to a head? The example that she shares is that is from her practice, the medical person was told by the malpractice insurance company not to chat with the dissatisfied client until the client sues them. And obviously, because of this they’re losing the opportunity to try to address the issue on the spot. How do you approach the insurance company to try to help them recognize that they’re creating an untenable position?
Rob Weinhold: A lot of times I work with organizations, there is an inherent conflict between the legal side of the house, marketing, the chief executive. Everybody has a different opinion and is looking through a certain lens. Most times, I work with some excellent attorneys but most times the attorney, and you don’t blame them, they’re looking to go ahead and win the case in the court of law whether it’s criminal law, civil law, they’re going to go ahead and try to win a case. And the preference is to not reach out to plaintiff for some of them might file a suit because they don’t want to a thing that disrupts the integrity of the case. Completely understand that. The problem is you create a lot of emotion by being unresponsive. And we’ve all heard of those statistics and studies that an apology goes a long way. And what I find is that most people go catastrophic because they feel like they’re not being heard and they’re not being validated. And so to me, there’s a way most times, to solve a problem, maybe without litigation, but at the end of the day, it’s about open communication. And so if you’re able to open up the lines of communication, and yes I understand there’s dollars at risk, and reputation at risk and so on and so forth. But most people, again, want to be heard and they want to be validated. To go ahead and close them off and have them fend for themselves send a strong message of “I don’t care”, and many times what it does is it continues to ignite the flame and pretty soon you have an inferno, and then you have someone who’s highly motivated to destroy your organization. And so, what I do is try to explain all of that to where we’re fighting for the court of public opinion here. It’s very important and we may win the case in the court of law, but if we lose in the court of public opinion it doesn’t matter, we won’t have a company or we won’t have a trust anyway of the people that we depend on to be in business or the people that we serve.
Audience Question: What about if you have a senior or a supervisor-employee who is misrepresenting you to higher-level management?
Rob Weinhold: What a tough dynamic right? Because that person has essentially your future in their hands. So what I encourage people to do with that is to actually have a direct conversation with the person you suspect of doing that. That’s a lot of risk to go ahead and approach your supervisor who basically controls your destiny and talk to them about your concern. But you see, I have a little different point of view so if you leave it alone, a couple of things are going to happen you’re going to become more negative, more resentful. And there are only 2 things that happen to negative people. They quit and they get fired. Or if you feel like the supervisor is poisoning the well of their superiors in the organization, you really got to know when situation because you’re not able to control that message. What I recommend is that you just sit the supervisor down in a very constructive non-emotional way. Talk about your concerns. And I think that there’s language that you can use that disarms the supervisor and you really have a human conversation. You’re probably saying, wait a minute, you don’t know my supervisor, they’re not even human, they’re malicious, terrible or whatever. My experience is, is that maybe the case but something is motivating that person. It could be a level of insecurity, it could be trying to position themselves because you don’t agree with something they did. But again, it goes back to confronting the person in a very constructive way and trying to develop a sense of understanding because one, It could be rumor, because you didn’t actually see it occur or hear it occur. And then number two, I think that once you are more relevant in that supervisor’s life when you express your concern, then many times, I see these relationships heal and actually they become better because you had the courage to confront.
Audience Question: Julie is commenting on the Domino’s apology, she says, we see these kinds of apologies all the time. They have become a very commonplace, has the public actually become desensitized to this kind of messaging after a crisis?
Rob Weinhold: Let me say something about Domino’s really quick. To me, the apology is another question and are we insensitive to it? Well, guess what, I’m actually insensitive to an apology sent by text, right? Or email? Or I tweet my apology just so the world can see. But Domino’s is a great case study and here is why. After that video ran, public sentiments started to turn Domino’s way. By the way, about the same time that whole issue occurred with Domino’s there was marketplace sentiment that Domino’s Pizza tasted like cardboard. So that in itself is a major problem. One of those crises could sink a company both together as a perfect storm. So Patrick Doyle went out and he said, you know what, you’re right, our does pizza tastes like cardboard and went ahead and reinvented the recipe. So Patrick Doyle retired last year and under his term, not only did he change the recipe, he doubled down the franchisee management, he created a micro-community that’s stronger now than it’s ever been and the company’s more digital than it’s ever been. And, under his tenure the Domino’s stock out-paced Amazon, Apple, and Google. Think about that for a moment: Apple, Amazon, and Google. And the start to that was him going public and apologizing and saying what people felt and developing a high level of connectivity. So yeah, so I think most people are sophisticated enough to know, when an apology is authentic and when it’s not and you have to make your own judgment. So whether it’s Ray Rice on a press conference announcing that he’s sorry for assaulting his fiancée or Congressman Weiner about cheating on his wife, or whatever the case is, I watch people’s feet, I rarely watch their mouth. And so while an apology is important, I watch what they do. So is there desensitization? Absolutely. But I think most people if they see people trying to do the right thing for the right reasons, will accept an apology, but then again, let’s watch their feet.
Audience Question: What is the best way to share your story through a PR Department?
Rob Weinhold: There’s a lot of answers and there’s probably another webinar about that. I always drop back and I say this: First off, what is your business goal? What is the goal of communicating? Is it to drive sales? Is it to influence opinion? Is it to drive people to a website? You really need to understand your business metrics in a smart way. When I say smart, I am referring to smart goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time- Sensitive. It’s really really important to understand that first. and then, you have to understand what the audience or what group of people you’re trying to impact. Figure out where they consume information and then develop your campaign, your marketing, and public relations campaign around those business metrics in the place where the conversation is occurring. And make sure that you are activating traditional and digital channels in a way with reach and frequency to move the dime. Again, if it is to drive sales which is a pretty common practice across the world, then we want to figure out our core target market, our demographics, how they consume their news, what they’re trying to get them to do and make sure we’re having the conversation with them on the platforms that will influence them, because you don’t fish for a fresh wide-mouth bass in the middle of the ocean. Same thing with marketing. We got to make sure that we’re meeting people where they are.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Art of Crisis Leadership.