Archive for the ‘Crisis PR’ Category

Taking away the fear and Positive PR the KLM way

March 12, 2020

KLM Airlines - Coronavirus

I just received a very clever piece of personalised email correspondence from the President and CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Pieter Elbers, which was designed to reassure anyone contemplating a flight with them that they are to be trusted during these worrying Coronavirus times.

It was really clever for a number of reasons..

It was Personalised

The email used my name…us customers love that!!

Really understanding the Customers Frame of Mind

The email understood my frame of mind perfectly and took me through a thought process step by step addressing my concerns and “What Ifs”.

The story in my head is that getting on a plane in a confined space with other people at the moment is one of very worst possible things that you could do. How can planes be cleaned between flights efficiently, what about all the places that a person will touch on the plane and what about the air circulation?

As a frequent traveler with KLM, you trust us to not only take you where you need to go, but to do so safely, comfortably and responsibly. Today, as the world comes to terms with an unprecedented health scare in COVID-19 (Corona virus), these values are more important to us than ever

His email addressed my fear and it reassured me step by step what they are doing at KLM to make sure that it is a safe environment.

He spoke about Safety and Hygiene procedures in very specific detail

  • Thorough cleaning and disinfecting before each departure itemising
    • Cleaning of galleys, carpets and toilets
    • Cleaning of tray tables, armrests, headrests and seatbelt buckles
  • Continuous cleaning by cabin crew in the air
  • Cabin air is continually refreshed with outside air
  • Using hospital-grade HEPA filters that are 99.99% effective in preventing airborne bacterial and viral organisms such as COVID-19
  • All flights have special Corona-kits and the team are trained in containment measures
  • Hygiene extends to catering, ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, strict guidelines to preparation

There was a link in the email to a video, which provided more information about hygiene at the airline.

While I was reading this impressive list of hygiene steps I was thinking of course that KLM would say this because they are protecting their interests and spinning the risks in their favour.

This was addressed:

“I fully understand the hesitation many people feel at the moment when deciding whether to book a flight or not. But you can feel secure in the knowledge that KLM has taken every precaution necessary to protect your health and the health of your loved ones.

In this emotional time, you can be assured that we are guided and consistently act by fact-based, circumstance-driven decision making. On a daily basis, we work closely with the top experts at the World Health Organization and Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM) in the Netherlands”

Beyond the Airline

And what about the other things that can go wrong about a journey that might have you unable to take the flight?

I also understand that your concern may not be about your journey with KLM, but about the many unknowns about the situation on the ground at your destination. That’s why you can book your KLM flight with the confidence of being able to change your booking without a change fee

It’s not exactly a refund but ..

Practical Information

The email provided practical information and demonstrated the professionalism of the airline

“We are in constant touch with all the relevant authorities to adjust our network as required. This means that we can immediately respond when new travel restrictions are announced. For the latest information on flight status, please visit our travel advisory page or use the KLM app and let us keep you posted 24/7 with push messages

Proud History and Customer Service Ethos

The email went on to highlight the history of the airline, the number of employees and the customer care ethos

“In 100 years of operations, KLM has faced many challenges and always emerged stronger. We were able to do so because we put you, our customer, at the heart of our operation. With that commitment in mind, I am confident that we will overcome this challenging time as well. As you know 33.000 KLM staff will go further to recognize your concerns and take care of you.”

We always preach to our clients that in their communications that they should weave in their ‘Key Messages’ – this was done here in a very clever, natural way.

Trust, Care, History, Customer Focus, Scale …. many boxes ticked!

Tone and Language 

All of the language used was appropriate, non-corporate and very down to earth and the tone was caring and inclusive, which was sealed in the email sign off

“Thank you for choosing KLM, and safe travels”

A Great Excuse to Communicate with Potential Customers!!

The most clever aspect of all with this email correspondence is that the Coronavirus, despite the horrible scenario, gave KLM a reason to reach out to all of their customers and remind them about their brand and prompt them to possibly think about them when booking flights in the future when things are hopefully back to normal.

It was a really long time since I flew KLM (I’m not sure what the GDPR police would be saying about this!!) but they have made me think about them in a really positive light which brings me to my very last point.

This is Positive PR

KLM have taken the opportunity (in awful circumstances) in a really nice, caring and soft way to reach out and tell a lot of people just how great they are!!

I’ve just told you about them..

So, a huge well done to KLM and their team for a really clever and well timed piece of correspondence that reminds us all about the power of great communications!

Can you do something similar with your customers today?

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

“Ordinary” voices speaking loudly

May 13, 2018

Vicky Phelan

I was driving across the city and listening passively to RTE 1 – it was Dee’s car so I didn’t have it set up to stream podcasts from my phone.

The presenter brought on a woman to talk about the utterly awful and totally depressing situation with the cervical cancer screening fiasco, brought to light by the very brave Vicky Phelan who had refused the insulting and inevitable “non-disclosure” clause in her settlement case with the HSE.

(can you even get your head around the callous thinking here? “We’ve practically killed you by not owning up to an error and we are now giving you some money to compensate you, but a condition must be that you keep your mouth shut about it!!)

This brave, “ordinary” woman had courage, refused this clause and used her voice to expose this awful crime on Irish citizens.

Margaret Murphy

The person who came on air was Margaret Murphy, who is a Patient Advocate for the World Health Organisation (WHO) Patients for Patient Safety Programme. I had never heard of her before and I never heard of this programme.

Margaret came to this position because of her eloquence and her unique ability to share the story of her son Kevin who died aged 21 years.  Margaret gives an insight into what it is like to be a patient, a family and a clinician when things go wrong in the healthcare system.

Margaret speaks all over the world addressing audiences on the topic of “things going wrong” within the medical world and advocates strongly for a regime of honesty, transparency and candour – she knows it works, she has the facts and she even makes the business case for being honest as it is proven to save money for the medical profession!

Once Margaret came on the airwaves she immediately grabbed my attention –  the most engaging thing about her was that she spoke in a down to earth accent (an “ordinary” person) and used down to earth language and she spoke with passion.

This is the time for all “ordinary” people to stand up and use their powerful voices and highlight the bullshit that is contaminating the most powerful institutions in the country.

Bring on the ordinary..

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Ryanair – The bit that comes before the Crisis

September 25, 2017

Ryanair - Always Getting Better

Early last week we were asked to comment by the publication Fora.ie about the whole Ryanair fiasco and what we thought of how they handled their crisis.

In a crisis situation we always advise –

  • Don’t hide
  • Quickly establish the facts
  • Be 100% truthful
  • Always provide a solution (or a least be honest about working hard to find one)
  • Don’t be afraid to say sorry (as long as you mean it)
  • Don’t be shy about telling people the good things you are doing

This can be achieved with a combination of holding statements, follow up statements, interviews and implementing any necessary changes.

In the case of Ryanair there wasn’t really a formal apology but Michael O’Leary was door stopped by reporters and did say it was “clearly a mess” but he went on to point out that it was just 2% of their passengers that had been affected. I think Michael is missing the point here about focussing on the good things!

On their website where they have a page dedicated to the cancelled flights they also remind people of this “2%” as well as listing the flights that have been cancelled. They also provide a ‘link’ to a page that directs people to an EU legislation document about entitlements to refunds and compensation.

The words “sorry” or “apologise” don’t appear anywhere!

Ryanair - Cancelled Flights

Understandably customers are irate – Ryanair are not helping the situation by drip feeding news about cancelled flights, their customer contact lines not being managed efficiently and are still overheating their situation by promoting flights at “€19.99”.

Furthermore, they have been denying that part of the problem is pilots leaving to take jobs in other airlines.

This scenario has got even worse with pilots going public with their gripes and painting a pretty awful picture about what life is like working for the ‘low care’ airline.

All of this comes at a time when the airline has been trying to refocus it’s brand with their “Always Getting Better” campaign.

A different scenario? 

So – would it have made a difference if Ryanair were upfront, issued a formal apology and showed genuine empathy with inconvenienced customers and were honest about solutions and assurances going forward?

The answer would be a big “Yes” but there is also a big “But” to contend with.

The effectiveness of this approach will depend on what people feel about the company when embarks on such a course –

  • Do people feel warmly towards the airline?
  • Do they believe that there is a genuine concern for customers?
  • Do they believe that staff at the airline are treated well?
  • Do they believe that this company does charitable work?
  • Do they believe there is a strong moral compass at the airline?
  • Have they communicated the great things (if such things exist) they have been doing to the general public and stakeholders?

Maybe realising this Michael felt there was no point pretending to care?

In a crisis a robust process will definitely help but the best preparation for a crisis is to be good and do good things and communicate this effectively – it is only then that people will be willing to listen to your apology and accept it.

Leopards don’t change their spots and not caring will bite you in the butt eventually.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Crisis Consultancy Services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

United Airlines and the Costly Culture

April 16, 2017

United Airlines protests.

When you hear the company name “United Airlines” what comes to mind?

When you hear the company name “Volkswagen” what comes to mind?

In both cases, you probably think of the well publicised and very damaging situations that have occurred, which have caused untold damage to these monstrous brands.

At the time of writing United Airline shares had dropped significantly resulting in a market capitalisation collapse of $570 Million.

While United Airlines was a very specific incident and Volkswagen was a very deliberate campaign of deception what they both have in common is that what occurred was not something that you could blame on “a” culprit in each company.

With United Airlines could you point the finger at the security guards who removed the passenger?

With Volkswagen could you point the finger at the engineers who were able to rig the emissions performance?

In each case, the individuals involved knew that what they did was okay with their bosses – why would they do such a thing otherwise?

In each case, their bosses knew that this was what they were expected to instruct their subordinates to do – why else would they give guidance like this?

In each case, their bosses, bosses had jobs to do and targets to meet and the expectation was that these must be achieved as a priority beyond all other objectives.

And so on up the chain of command.

The huge problem in large organisations is that very often something rotten is allowed to creep into the culture resulting in management and employees behaving really badly and eventually it just bursts through and shows its ugly face in a way that is quite extraordinarily shocking to everyone.

Oscar Munoz - United Airlines

For example with United Airlines the initial reaction of Chairman Oscar Munoz was to apologise to other passengers for the “upsetting event” but went on to push the blame onto the 69-year-old victim Dr.Dao for being “disruptive and belligerent“!

If you ever wanted someone to confirm the rotten culture at the airline, Mr.Munoz did it in his next communication to his staff where he praised them and stood behind them:

Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right

In a strange way, he was 100% correct – they did what was expected of them in these situations and as a result, he applauded them!!

At this point in time, the airline’s reputation was in tatters and Oscar and his team started to frantically backpaddle and within three days their tone had changed and fresh press statements included grovelling apologies to Dr.Dao for the appalling treatment and a full refund to all passengers on the flight (what difference was this ridiculous gesture going to do for anyone?).

The best PR advice when something like this occurs is to come clean and apologise immediately with complete sincerity. The word “Sorry” if people genuinely believe those that are delivering the apology can go a long way to reducing the damage caused.

However, just like in the United Airlines scenario a genuine “sorry” was not possible because the culture was too rotten to even contemplate doing such a thing – the expression ‘not being able to see the wood from the trees‘ comes to mind here.

Your reputation ultimately comes from what you do and how you behave and while good PR professionals can help to lessen the damage from a bad situation, it cannot change the culture, which can often be the reason why these things ended up happening in the first place.

Could your culture end up costing you?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Crisis PR consultancy from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Trust and restoring broken reputations

February 11, 2017

Maurice McCabe

If things weren’t bad before, they became even worse this week for An Garda Síochána when it was revealed that an “incorrect” sexual abuse file was held against Maurice McCabe by Tusla, the family and child protection agency.

Everyone in the media is being extra careful to avoid stating the obvious conclusions as they risk getting into trouble legally. However, they have published the various statements by those parties involved and reported the facts as they came to light and they keep probing and probing for the truth in this sinister mess to reveal itself fully.

Incidents like this demonstrate once again why we need professional, intelligent journalism to bring us the truth as we can’t rely solely on social media to deliver this. Social media is fantastic as it gives us a powerful voice to demonstrate our dissatisfaction as loudly as we feel is appropriate.

We heard the statement by the Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, the leader of the organisation who has claimed that she know nothing of the sexual abuse shenanigans with the whistleblower, Maurice McCabe.

Tusla in the meantime have issued their own statement claiming that their file against Maurice McCabe with the atrocious false claims against him were a ‘clerical error‘.

The comical little addition to the Tusla story was that their official apology to Maurice McCabe was sent to the wrong address!

The public are no fools and the generally held, unsurprising conclusion about this story is that senior members of the Gardaí who were unhappy with their whistle blowing colleague tried to smear his reputation in the worst possible way to punish him and protect themselves.

Even worse in this sorry saga, Tusla were obviously happy to play ball with their Garda acquaintances.

This stinks to high heaven and leaves all of us with two awful conclusions:

We cannot trust An Garda Síochána and we cannot trust Tusla.

When you consider the crucial role that both of these state bodies are paid to provide, ‘trust‘ is not a negotiable, nice to have attribute. Trust is everything.

What next?

To begin the long road of rebuilding trust in both organisations there can be no more fluffing about and decisive action and clear communication is required.

Our strong advice to those in charge would be to get ahead of the story, remove all doubts and demonstrate in no uncertain way how important regaining trust is.

This is the time for An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny or Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald to take decisive action and remove Nóirín O’Sullivan from her role and get the investigation started immediately.

This is the time for Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone to demand a 100% honest statement from the CEO of Tusla, Fred McBride as to what actually happened. If this is as farcical as the ‘clerical error’ statement, he should also be removed from his role.

The reputation of these two state organisations is not negotiable – start demonstrating it.

Greg Canty 

Fuzion provide Crisis PR services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

 

 

 

 

 

Your past biting you in the ass

October 10, 2016

Can you imagine Hillary Clinton in her car heading to the airport having left the Presidential debate with Donald Trump. This was one of the biggest moments in her whole life as it was his.

Many of the reviewers of the debate criticised her as she failed to land the killer blow over the comments he was caught making on his famous bus ride.

The truth was she couldn’t land the killer blow because of what her husband Bill got caught doing when he was President, which Donald correctly stated was one of the worst incidents ever for a US President!

Sitting in her car she knew it and of course Bill also sitting in the car knew it. What was she thinking, what did she say?

“Love you dear” 

“Love you too”

Both Donald and Hillary are both caught in a horrible loop because of their past but at least in her case it wasn’t her who did the particular deed.

While it’s easy for all of us to stand in our glass houses we are being reminded of the valuable lesson that crazy stuff we might do today could easily bite us in the ass just when it matters most.

P.S. We don’t all talk like that in the locker room.

Greg Canty 

Do we have a hunger for bad guys?

August 24, 2016

Pat Hickey - Olympic Council of Ireland

At the moment we seem to have an insatiable appetite for the bad guys – this often seems to start with the media, with us happily jumping on the bandwagon, lapping up all of the attention grabbing and often sensationalist headlines accepting all of what is being said without question.

Maybe all of these ‘shameful characters‘ are as guilty as they are portrayed and maybe they deserve all of those rotten tomatoes and for their reputations to be destroyed irrevocably.

However, maybe we don’t know the full stories and maybe just maybe the process of delivering those shocking, sensationalist headlines isn’t always that robust?

In the course of our Crisis Communications work we have seen 100% incorrect situations being portrayed by the media in a particular way, which would have Mr and Mrs Everybody unfairly believing the worst and as a result solid reputations are destroyed forever.

It can happen easier that you may think..

  • someone with a gripe concocts a story about their target
  • they start a disingeneous “legal process” against their target
  • the legal documents get deliberately leaked to the media
  • a “hungry for a great story” journalist gratefully accepts the gift and starts to write their sensational story
  • the target is told there is a piece being written about them the next day including the detail from the legal document (bear in mind if you are explaining you are always losing) – any comment the journalist asks? – this is offering a right of reply (they did ask = technical fairness)
  • the flustered target (often not used to dealing with the media) might say “no comment” (solicitors often give this normally suicidal advice) or they might in the best possible way try to give responses to the accusations
  • the article appears in the newspaper complete with the sensationalist headline “Greg Canty (it could be you!) accused of embezzling funds
  • the radio stations pick up on the story and interview the person with the gripe who is more than happy to tell their story
  • the target is called by the radio station for interview to rebutt the claims – once again, when you are explaining you are losing!
  • the person with the gripe drops their legal process – it was never serious in the first place!

Question – what arresting officer in Rio would have taken the pic above of Pat Hickey of the Irish Olympic Council and tweet it? Why?

Mr and Mrs Everybody are shocked and horrified and they start tweeting about it, venting their anger and it goes on and on – the story gets bigger and bigger and then it grows arms and legs with further titbits being added as the hate momentum builds.

Maybe they did these terrible things but maybe they didn’t?

The next time we read these sensationalist headlines we should pause and carefully question everything we read before fully making up our minds about these “villains”.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Crisis Communications from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

 

 

The Culture Creep

December 29, 2015

Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh, CEO and founder of Zappos speaks about culture in a very clear way “Our belief is that if we get the culture right, most of the other stuff – like delivering great customer service, or building a long-term enduring brand and business will happen naturally on its own

He believes in this so much that every year he produces a ‘culture book‘ for the company. This isn’t something that management drafts with rules and guidelines and inspirational words but it is something that all employees, partners and vendors are invited to feed into.

The submissions are not edited except for typos as it is intended to capture the culture of his special club.

He gets that the culture of the business is the driving force behind it but he also gets that you can’t dictate it – it is what it is and he uses the book to capture the pulse of the organisation in a clean way.

If you read Hsieh’s book ‘Delivering Happiness‘ you will learn the lengths the company goes to, to ensure that the right culture is ingrained in every employee from the minute they join and even some novel ideas to encourage people who “don’t fit” to quickly exit (they will pay you €2,000 to quit!) to ensure they don’t infect the business.

Culture creep

An article caught my attention recently in the Daily Telegraph about the recent VW scandal with the headline ‘Emissions rigging scandal was caused by the firm’s culture

VW Scandal

The chairman, Hans Dieter Potsch stated that “misconduct, flaws in our processes and an attitude that tolerated breaches of rules” had been allowed stretching back over a decade and ending with the company deliberately cheating pollution control tests on a massive scale.

He went on to state “This was not attributable to a once off error, but an unbroken chain of errors“.

The day an employee starts a new job they quickly learn the lay of the land – what is the place like, what does it take to progress, what things get you in trouble, what are the golden rules?

These important things aren’t what is printed in the ‘hand book‘ or on the company website but they are the living, breathing dynamics of everyday work life that you need to learn quickly if you want to survive and progress in your new job.

Ironically on the VW website they have a campaign called “Think Blue” . Read the blurb: “Everyone can help to treat our environment better. At Volkswagen we are not satisfied just to build cars with lower CO2 emissions. Instead we have taken a much more holistic attitude towards ecological sustainability: “Think Blue.

I couldn’t find anything on their website about the culture and values of the company.

What happened at VW ?

It seems that a culture creep happened whereby my boss thought it was ok to bend the rules because his boss thought it was ok because his boss said it was and this obviously crept up and down the organisation until a culture of honesty and integrity (corporate buzzwords you will regularly see as key values) had virtually disintegrated. This however didn’t stop the marketing machine with their ‘Think Blue‘ campaign!

This culture creep obviously took years to infect the company but it did have to start somewhere with people in senior positions for whatever reasons (pressure, bonuses, incompetence?) making really damaging decisions, which have possibly irrevocably wrecked the proud reputation of this fabulous company built gradually since the forties.

A strong culture is a core element of your brand and it needs to be nurtured and protected by every single person in your organisation. The branding, inspirational taglines, value statements, books and brochures should be expressions of this culture but they must be real and must genuinely reflect the ethos and ‘truth‘ that exists in the business.

Anything else will eventually be found out..

Greg Canty is a Managing Partner of Fuzion Marketing, PR and Design.

 Fuzion provide Crisis PR services and run Brand Workshops for clients from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

Building your Reputation Wall

December 28, 2015

awards wall

We were back at this point again with a client of ours.

We were being asked by the media if our client would do interviews as a result of some really great news that we had pushed out in a press release.

Of course we had advised our client that this would more than likely happen but she was adamant that she did not want to do newspaper and radio interviews “I hate to be seen as blowing my own trumpet” and “won’t the media be quick enough to cut the legs from you when things go wrong?“.

These were really ‘hard set‘ beliefs that she had and there was no shifting them. As her communications advisers we had to push her and explain that doing these interviews would be great for the business and would help to achieve the objectives that they had set for us.

Her last comment really struck a chord with me – “Won’t the media be quick enough to cut the legs from you when things go wrong?”

To be honest when things go wrong everyone will question what happened and this is the general public and the media. Mostly you can’t predict when these things happen but sometimes you can. In either case you should be prepared by having carefully built up your reputation wall.

Reputation Wall

Imagine all of the good things that you and your organisation does – these things will help to start building a “reputation wall” for you.

Great products, excellent customer service, paying your suppliers on time, being courteous in business, being a responsible corporate citizen, looking after your team and doing charitable work are all fantastic things that help to build that reputation wall with your various stakeholders.

They are a great company” is what you want people saying about you.

PR can help to accelerate your good news and with the help of some careful planning this reputation wall will be built even higher by reaching a much wider audience through the media and other communications channels such as social media.

Your reputation wall will hep you win business, get loans, get credit, get planning permission, get landlords wanting you as their tenant, attract great staff but this isn’t the only time it will help you.

In the event that something does go wrong (and it often does unless you are extremely lucky) your organisation will be seen as one that should be believed and trusted and as a result you will be forgiven for whatever has gone wrong. The higher and stronger your wall is the more it will protect you.

I explained all of this to my client and thankfully she did listen to me and agreed to do one of the radio interviews. I smiled as I listened to her doing her fantastic company proud.

How is your reputation wall?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR who offer PR and Crisis PR services in Ireland from our offices in Dublin and Cork

The difference between Leadership and a “Spokesperson said”

December 8, 2015

Councillor Joe Queenan

Last night Fianna Fail issued a statement after the resignation of disgraced Councillor Joe Queenan (don’t you love the camera hidden in the box of tissues!)

The statement was as expected:

Following the Primetime Investigates Standards in Public Office programme, a Spokesperson for Fianna Fáil commented, “Tonight the Party has accepted the resignation of Cllr Joe Queenan. Some of the behaviour displayed in tonight’s programme was shocking and completely unacceptable. The instances where there appear to be clear breaches of the law need to be fully investigated by the Gardaí and prosecutions brought where appropriate.”

Click to view the full Fianna Fail Joe Quennan statement.

It was an appropriate statement and it was very important that Fianna Fail issued it quickly but I do have a big question – why a Spokesperson?

Why do organisations like this choose to go this anonymous, nothing ‘spokesperson‘ route instead of grabbing the opportunity and demonstrating clear leadership, authority and direction?

We don’t want a ‘Spokesperson‘!!

Instead we want a leader, someone who speaks out, someone who is willing to take responsibility and put their name behind the statement and show clearly what is expected of their organisation.

We want a person who will take the interviews, face the music and show some conviction.

Next time you are writing a press release try to avoid the bland, cop out of the “Spokesperson said” if you want to show leadership and authority and you want people to take you more seriously.

Well done to the Primetime Investigates team at RTE!

Greg Canty 

Fuzion PR Services – Cork and Dublin, Ireland