Issues and crisis management – online lessons

By Guest Blogger Rob Crabtree (PRINZ Fellow and Trainer)

We all know that an issue we are dealing with can quickly turn into a crisis we were not expecting and for which we most probably are not prepared. Our reputation suffers accordingly. A colleague in Chicago, Nick Kalm, recently shared his views on an issue that developed into a very embarrassing situation for an individual – highly relevant given recent email messaging around the corridors of power in New Zealand.

This is what he wrote and the lessons that should be learned from it:

Don’t pick fights with those who…have internet access

There’s a story rocketing around the PR agency world about a PR firm that finds itself in a very ugly and avoidable fight with a prominent blogger. It’s a great and timeless cautionary tale.

There’s an old saying about not picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.  Of course, this is meant to suggest caution about doing battle with a member of the media.

But with most newspapers, radio and TV news in decline, along with the rapid ascent of bloggers, I think the saying should be updated to the headline of this post.

In this case, the PR firm sent a pitch to a blogger who didn’t care to receive it.  Blogger said so (in typical blogger way) and got a snarky reply from the pitcher at the PR firm.  Blogger (who, by the way, had over 160,000 followers — compare that to the readership of your average daily newspaper!) sent back another typical blogger reply (a bit flip and edgy).

This was followed by a foolish “reply all” from the PR firm (that included said blogger).  Well, after this bonehead maneuver (which nearly anyone could have done), the blogger apparently gave the PR firm VP a chance to take his comment back, but, no, instead, he decided to double down on snark.

And, gee, what do you think the blogger decided to do about this whole exchange?  Publish it!   Sigh….

Setting aside how this reflects on the whole PR agency world, it was just plain dumb to think that this firm could do (inept) battle with a blogger and come out a winner.

So, what are the lessons here?

Lesson #1 — Treat respectable bloggers (especially those with six-figures worth of followers!) with at least as much respect as you’d treat a reporter from The New York Times.

Lesson #2 — Assume that anything and everything that you put in writing to/about a blogger will find its way to said blogger (and everyone who follows him/her…and so on….and so on).

Lesson #3 — Once the damage, is done, the only thing left to do is give an unqualified apology to the blogger (and the world), and give your staff some remedial training.


Learn more about how you can avoid an issue from becoming a crisis and managing a crisis situation (if it occurs) at Rob’s professional development courses on 24 April in Auckland.

Issues Management

Crisis Management

Rob Crabtree has over 25 years of experience to share.A public relations practitioner for 27 years, he is one of our most experienced consultants and trainers. Rob has worked in corporate management roles, as well as running his own consultancy. He was a radio and television broadcaster for 17 years. Rob is a Past President and Life Member of PRINZ.

One thought on “Issues and crisis management – online lessons

  1. Pingback: World PR Forum 2012

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