Denver PR Blog


Delta CEO Violates a Cardinal Crisis Communications Rule
February 15, 2020, 5:26 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Delta Airlines, Public Relations

One of the cardinal rules of crisis communications is to do everything you can not to become the face of a negative issue that affects multiple people or companies. That is a lesson Delta CEO Ed Bastian apparently doesn’t fully appreciate.

By now, almost everyone has seen the viral “Recline-gate” video featuring two American Airlines passengers:

 

The first 24 hours of the debate centered on who was in the wrong – the women who reclined her seat or the man behind her who repeatedly pushed her seat in protest. That debate quickly changed, however, as people began to realize it was the airlines who created this Stanford Prison Experiment-esque scenario. The airlines are the bad guys here.

American Airlines no doubt was preparing to manage the negative publicity, but then they were given a gift. Delta’s CEO appeared on CNBC and was asked who was right. He weighed in and said that he thought reclining was reasonable, but that you should ask permission first. That answer reignited a new debate. Instantly, Delta became the face of the issue. Even though the viral video was of American Airlines passengers, the general public will associate Delta with the lack of knee room on airplanes.

Meanwhile, you can bet American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will be hiding out for a week or two. He’s more than happy to let media and social media replay the clip of Delta’s CEO over and over again. To paraphrase Napoleon, never get in the way of a competitor who is making a mistake.

 



Dunkin’ Donuts CEO in Fetal Position Under Desk after Snoop Dogg Threatens CBS’ Gayle King & Offers Support to Bill Cosby
February 8, 2020, 11:22 am
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Dunkin', Public Relations

It’s not quite the same as finding out that the most recognizable face of your company has been arrested for pedophilia, but Dunkin’ Donuts has to be rethinking its marketing strategy after spokesman Snoop Dogg spent the last 48 hours threatening CBS news anchor Gayle King and calling for the release of convicted sex offender Bill Cosby.

In January – one month after Dunkin’ Donuts’ CMO resigned to pursue “the next opportunity” – the coffee chain launched a national ad campaign featuring Snoop Dogg. Now, less than a month later, it has to make a decision about whether to suspend the campaign entirely.

Those of us old enough to have owned The Chronic on CD marveled at the idea that Snoop Dogg had evolved to the point that he would be the star of a mainstream advertising campaign. And it turns out maybe we were right. I think Snoop himself said it best on Gin & Juice: “With so much drama in the L-B-C, It’s kinda hard bein’ Snoop D-O-double-G.”

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Lodo’s Angers Rockies Fans with Cubs Flags
April 24, 2018, 9:48 am
Filed under: Colorado Rockies, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

The Chicago Cubs took two of three from the Rockies this past weekend, and Lodo’s Bar & Grill – located a block away from Coors Field – is playing a little defense after this photo starting making the rounds on social media:

LodosCubs



Starbucks Shows it Takes Discrimination Seriously
April 18, 2018, 6:35 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications, Public Relations

Starbucks logoBy now, you have no doubt seen the news that two African-American men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks Thursday. The men were waiting for a friend when they were asked to leave because they hadn’t yet purchased anything, a request that appears to run counter to the company’s policy.

The incident sparked outrage and protest amid accusations that race was at the heart of the incident – had the two men been white, for example, it is almost certain the police would not have been called.

Give Starbucks’ senior management and crisis communications teams credit for neutralizing a delicate situation. The company recognized immediately that it had a highly charged and potentially combustible issue on its hands, and its reaction has been impressive. Among its responses:

  • Starbucks immediately acknowledged the issue on social media and promised to look into the issue.
  • Once Starbucks quickly determined it was in the wrong, CEO Kevin Johnson personally apologized to the men. Johnson also apologized publicly in written and video statements that were posted to the company’s social media platforms.
  • Johnson traveled to Philadelphia and spent several days listening face-to-face to members of the community.
  • Starbucks reassigned the store employee who called the police.
  • The company announced that it will close all 8,000 of its U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias education training for nearly 175,000 employees. Additionally, Starbucks shared that the curriculum for that training will be created in collaboration with some of the leading experts on addressing racial bias.

Starbucks followed the PR crisis playbook closely, and it has been incredibly effective at neutralizing this crisis. It didn’t just react, it leaned toward overreacting. Protesters in Philadelphia (and nationally) have been trying to leverage this situation into something bigger, but Starbucks has been a step ahead of them from the beginning.

Additionally, Starbucks has signaled to its socially conscious customer base that it shares their inherent values and is more than willing to be a leader in the fight for principles such as racial equality and respect for all individuals.



Critics Attack Detroit Ad Campaign
July 25, 2017, 10:32 am
Filed under: Advertising, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

Quicken Loans founder and billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert has apologized for an ad encouraging the public to “see Detroit like we do.” The only problem? Detroit is more than 80 percent black, and the ad features zero African-Americans. Gilbert said his company “screwed up badly” and that the campaign has been suspended.

Detroit



The Hits Keep Coming at Chipotle
July 1, 2016, 7:47 am
Filed under: Chipotle, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

When I was at StorageTek, the CEO asked me what it would take to get him on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. “Embezzle $100 million,” I joked.

Recently, Chipotle has seen a lot more coverage in the Wall Street Journal than it wants, and the hits just keep on coming. If you see Chris Arnold today, buy him a drink. He’s earned it.

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Cinemark asks shooting victims to cover $700k in legal fees
June 30, 2016, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Crisis Communications, lawsuits, Public Relations

Now that Cinemark has been found not responsible for the Aurora theater shooting, it’s pretty easy to see why it would want to get the money it spent defending itself back. But I’ll give Cinemark the same advice I have given literally dozens of CEOs across many different industries: You are never sorry later for having taken the high road. Not to mention that the reputational damage for trying to collect $700,000 will be in the tens of millions of dollars.