Denver PR Blog

Lack of Research Gives Chili’s Black Eye in Autism Flap
April 7, 2014, 10:58 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Restaurant chain Chili’s is playing some defense after it apparently failed to conduct its due diligence before agreeing to support the National Autism Association, a non-profit group that has linked vaccinations to autism in some cases. Chili’s announced on its Facebook page that it has canceled the fundraiser that would have donated 10 percent of today’s proceeds to the NAA.

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GM CEO Credited for Handling of Recall Crisis
April 4, 2014, 10:03 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

When General Motors named Mary Barra its first female CEO three months ago, who knew the biggest hurdle she would likely face would be trying to undo the damage done by her predecessors? For all of her business acumen, it may simply be her likability and sense of trustworthiness that determines whether she survives.

Forbes, among many others, gives her credit for navigating the crisis with aplomb:

… Ms. Barra struck exactly the right tone: calm, in control, honestly sympathetic, yet not going to be pushed into a statement she did not want to make. She was unfailingly polite, and seemed dedicated to finding out the truth, and then to addressing it head-on. She did not grandstand nor was she flustered; she did not defer nor did she deflect the criticism, but she did stand up to her questioners when they were not clear, in a way that was neither angry, nor defensive, nor subservient.


PR Debacle of the Day
April 3, 2013, 12:29 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Last December, Rutgers University officials – including its President and Athletic Director – watched this video of its head basketball coach verbally and physically abusing players and thought a three-game suspension and fine was appropriate punishment.

Now, the world has seen it, and it is only a matter of time before Rutgers fires the coach. The question is how long they will allow their brand to twist in the wind before they finally do it. Free PR tip: quicker is better.

UPDATE: Rutgers made the classic public relations mistake of only dealing with part of the issue when it fired the coach on Wednesday morning. Had Rutgers also fired the athletic director who knew about the abuses months ago and did little, it would have dealt with the issue in one swift moment. Instead, the attention will now turn to the athletic director instead of simply dissipating.

UPDATE II: It took 24 hours for Rutgers to fire the coach, and an additional two days for the athletic director to “resign.”

Lance Armstrong is a Terrible Person
January 15, 2013, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs will air tomorrow Thursday, and the speculation about what he said has become the media story of the day.Screen shot 2013-01-15 at 5.17.03 PM

The coverage is taking a lot of different angles, but there is at least one singular truth about his story: Lance is a terrible person. A tremendous athlete, but a terrible person. And not because he used PEDs, but because of how he tried to ruin anyone and everyone who dared to speak the truth.

Sometimes terrible people do good things, maybe even because they need to cover up the fact that they are terrible people. And those good things can offer enough cover that blind loyalists continue to believe. Richard Nixon created the EPA, Mussolini made the trains run on time, and Lance created the Livestrong Foundation.

But I don’t think for a second he founded his foundation because he truly cared about his fellow man. Lance reveled in the money and fame that came from being a world-class cyclist. And he was perceptive enough to recognize that Greg LeMond’s celebrity dried up the second he quit cycling. So Lance did everything he could to make his celebrity last.

First, he took PEDs so he could remain competitive, and then when he realized even PEDs would not keep him relevant forever, he founded the Livestrong Foundation. It brought him an entirely new source of fans and endorsement money. A source he thought would last a lifetime.

Lance has received world-class PR counsel over the years, and until recently it allowed him to stay in front of the rumors and accusations. But, for the moment, it has all caught up with him. Lance is a survivor, literally and figuratively, and I wouldn’t bet against the comeback for which he is desperately trying to position himself. But if his reputation does survive, don’t ever forget the one true thing about Lance: he is a terrible person.

Great Moments in Crisis Communications
July 19, 2012, 8:45 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Burger King is playing some defense after this photo was posted online, allegedly by a Mayfield, Ohio, employee.

The Freeh Report
July 13, 2012, 8:29 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Are Companies Moving On From PR Fiascos Faster?
April 4, 2012, 8:07 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

The Wall Street Journal investigates and concludes they are.

9News Investigates Second Kirsten Hamling Non-Profit
December 23, 2011, 9:57 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

9News’ Anastasiya Bolton is looking into the details of a second non-profit organization affiliated with Traction Communications’ Kirsten Hamling.

State of Colorado Sues Kirsten Hamling’s ‘Fired Up For Kids’
December 20, 2011, 2:16 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Public Relations

Following recent questions about whether Traction Communications’ Kirsten Hamling misled firefighters and stole money intended for The Children’s Hospital Burn Center, the Colorado Attorney General’s office has filed suit against “Fired Up For Kids.” And the allegations are not pretty for Hamling. Among them:

15. In its solicitation materials, including materials sent to event sponsors as well as on its website, Fired Up For Kids has represented that it is a “Denver-based nonprofit organization” that donates all proceeds from special events and sales of The Colorado Firefighter Calendar to The Children’s Hospital Burn Center.
16. Fired Up For Kids also has represented itself in public solicitation materials as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.
17. In fact, Fired Up For Kids never received 501(c)(3) status from the United States Internal Revenue Service. Nevertheless, upon information and belief, Fired Up For Kids never paid taxes.
18. Kirsten Hamling was the sole director of Fired Up For Kids and its founder. Ms. Hamling is also the sole signatory on Fired Up for Kids operating account, maintained at Wells Fargo Bank.
19. Almost immediately after the incorporation of Fired Up For Kids as a nonprofit corporation, Ms. Hamling began making charges of a personal nature to the Fired Up For Kids operating account. These charges continued through at least July 2010. Charges included money spent at nail and hair salons, money spent on gym memberships, money spent at department stores, and money spent on airline tickets to California. These charges had nothing to do with Fired Up For Kids.

So, based on the allegations, it appears that Hamling may either have admit that Fired Up For Kids is a non-profit and she misused and/or stole money it, or that Fired Up For Kids is a for-profit enterprise and she never paid taxes.

Penn State Selects Ketchum for Crisis Work
November 16, 2011, 8:26 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Hard to believe, but apparently Penn State’s (lack of) response to its child sex abuse crisis is being guided by Ketchum. According to Ad Age, Ketchum was retained on Nov. 6, the day after former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested.

Hits to Traction Communications’ Hamling Keep Coming
November 11, 2011, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications

The hits to Traction Communications’ Kirsten Hamling keep coming. KMGH/Channel 7 has an update on a story CBS4 broke about Hamling’s alleged theft of money intended for The Children’s Hospital. According to KMGH’s Lance Hernandez, “the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation has issued a cease-and-desist order” against her organization, Fired Up For Kids. And sources indicate that the amount of the alleged theft is at least $50,000.

Additionally, Hernandez talked to a firefighter who appeared in the calendar who says he is “betrayed and hurt that all calendar money may not have gone to burn victims.”

UPDATE: CBS4 News Director Tim Wieland says that no cease-and-desist order has been filed, but that future calendar sales and events are on hold pending an investigation. And according to the Denver Post, TCH has asked the calendar maker to stop using its name until that independent investigation is completed.

Gambling Ring Implicates Armstrong, Sander
November 7, 2011, 9:59 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

It isn’t as juicy as the Denver Players Club scandal, but this weekend’s report of a high-end Colorado gambling ring has done what the Players Club scandal couldn’t do: name names. Among those who have been caught up in the ring are Denver Post sportswriter Jim Armstrong (who was fired Friday when his name surfaced) and Steve Sander, Denver’s director of strategic marketing and a member of the Metro Denver Sports Commission’s board of directors.

The silver lining for Denver Post colleagues is that Armstrong represents one less layoff that may come should the newspaper’s buyout program not yield results.

Murdoch, ‘Annoyed by Negative Headlines,’ Retains Edelman
July 14, 2011, 3:15 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Fox News

If you have been breathlessly waiting to hear from Rupert Murdoch after FedExing him your latest brochure, bad news: he picked Edelman. This seems like a good opportunity to point out the value of giving PR a seat at the table in order to head off trouble, or at least engaging a PR firm earlier than 11 days after becoming the biggest story in the world, but those lectures generally are lost on the people who need them most. Sigh.

Unions Losing PR Fight in Wisconsin
February 21, 2011, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Why are unions in Wisconsin – and nationwide – so vulnerable? Because they lost the public relations battle years ago.

Many strategists and even some labor officials argue that the genuine passion and emotion being felt and displayed on the ground in Wisconsin is obscuring a central problem: Unions still haven’t figured out even a semblance of an effective PR strategy.

Hurd on the Street
August 10, 2010, 1:48 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Public Relations

Dear CEOs,

Look the f@#! out. We’re calling the shots now.


Public Relations

P.S. Of course, that’s not to say our recommendations will always make a lot of sense. Now double our budgets, or else.

Dear Apple …
July 14, 2010, 10:39 am
Filed under: Apple, Crisis Communications

Dear Apple,

Mistakes happen. But it is the cover-up that can kill your reputation.


The last five decades

P.S. You also lose some street-cred points for allowing Microsoft’s Bing to catch you red-handed.

At Least Toyota’s Crisis Communications Team is Warmed Up
April 13, 2010, 7:39 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Toyota

And the hits keep coming for Toyota. After months of terrible press about its unintended acceleration and braking problems, Consumer Reports today gave the Toyota-built Lexus GX 460 its once-in-a-decade “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” rating due to what it views as an unacceptably high risk of rollover.

2009 PR Salaries Down; Tiger Fatigue; Social Media Tips
March 29, 2010, 7:08 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Salaries, Social Media

What Separates Good Clients from Average Clients? Felonies, of Course
January 6, 2010, 8:38 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications, GBSM

The most thoughtful clients are the ones who know you are coming and take the time to create a public relations crisis so your visit will be worth the effort. GBSM’s Steve Silvers shares his story of a thoughtful client in a broader post about what Tiger Woods and other scandals tell us about crisis management planning.

The First Winner in the Tiger Woods Floozy Epidemic
December 29, 2009, 3:15 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications

We have our first winner in the Tiger Woods floozy epidemic of 2009: The University of California at Davis. Two economics professors at the school have calculated that the Tiger Woods scandal “may have cost shareholders of companies endorsed by the world’s No. 1 golfer up to $12 billion in losses.” True? Probably not. Easily reported tidbit that keeps the Tiger scandal in the news another few days during this holiday drought? Absolutely.

The New ‘Cheetah Woods’ Logo
December 15, 2009, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Advertising, Crisis Communications

With 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 women claiming extramarital affairs with Tiger Woods, it was only a matter of time before someone channeled their inner 8-year-old and took a crack at updating Woods’ logo. Ji Lee does the honors:

(Hat tip: The Denver Egotist)

Picture of the Week
August 26, 2009, 6:28 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Microsoft is playing a little public relations defense today after a photo appeared on its Polish-language Web site that Photoshopped a black man into a white man. There are, of course, a number of lessons to be learned here, not least of which is that a white guy with black hands may arouse suspicion.

Apple Fumbles ‘Billionth Download’ Celebration
April 24, 2009, 7:54 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

The truly great PR blunders are self-made, as Apple showed us this week. As the company prepared to publicly celebrate the one billionth download from its App Store, it managed to change the focus to how it ever could have allowed the Baby Shaker application to get approved. Apple finally hit the billion downloads mark early this morning, but every article written about the achievement will now mention the Baby Shaker controversy.

Domino’s Crisis Response Rates Highly
April 16, 2009, 8:18 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications

Domino’s is getting relatively high marks from social-networking and crisis-management experts for its response to a YouTube video that shows two of its employees “tampering” with food.


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