In today’s AHA Fast Take Friday, Ruth talks about the use or non-use of social media during an issue.
According to a Global News report, Centerplate, the company whose CEO Desmond Hague was seen in a video kicking a dog in an elevator, has released a statement. It says that they do not condone animal abuse and are undertaking an internal review. The statement also says that Hague has agreed to undergo counselling for anger management issues and has pledged a significant, personal, multi-year financial commitment to help support the protection and safety of animals.
In theory, what is outlined in the statement are the right things to do. However, I find it interesting that this statement comes out after many of the company’s clients, such as the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Mariners, have made their own statements of concern about this issue.
As I said in my earlier blog post, I don’t know what Centerplate’s strategy is for managing this issue. I don’t know the specifics of why it was decided to respond via statements. My opinion is based on how it is being played out in a public forum.
However, having said that, it is clear that this reactive, hiding behind statements from lawyers and PR people is not working. People are angry, they are calling for Centerplate’s contracts to be cancelled, and are threatening to boycott the food that is sold at stadiums that use Centerplate. It’s time to change up the strategy and get authentic about this.
Is Hague or his PR team reading the tweets and comments on articles about this issue? Centerplate’s website is still up, but the list of clients has been taken down. That’s not transparent.
To me, the Centerplate statement is clearly reactive and having these statements coming from lawyers and PR people is not helping. Not to mention that social media sites have been taken down and the website is being changed, so we can’t find specific information about the clients. They have taken an “information out” approach, instead of finding a way to engage in a dialogue. (It would be a very tough dialogue.)
Hague needs to stand up and visibly get in front of this – and take the heat. In my professional opinion, he needs to do a video where he acknowledges what he did wrong and fully apologize. He needs to do a media tour and go to the breakfast shows or morning news in the cities where Centerplate has clients and talk about his mistake, what he is doing to make it right, and what he is doing to help abused animals. And he needs to do it now. I don’t want to hear “we are doing an internal review and he has pledged money” – I want to know what is being reviewed, how much money he is going to contribute, the names of the animal organizations, and that he realizes that this is unacceptable behaviour.
He needs to do more than send out these statements to media. I want to see a real person who is truly sorry for what they have done and realizes how horrific his actions were. It seems that many other people do too.
It feels like he is hiding behind his legal and PR teams and using statements that he doesn’t have to actually speak about what he did. In my opinion, until he steps forward and shows us that he realizes what he did is wrong and takes full responsibility for what he did, the anger of the stadium food-buying public isn’t going to stop.
(Editor’s Note – August 27, 2014: Ruth Atherley has written a second blog post to update the situation.)
Many people are outraged after seeing a video showing a man in an elevator kicking a one-year-old Doberman pinscher dog and then hauling the dog off the elevator by its leash.
If you don’t know about this deplorable act, you can learn about it here.
Desmond Hague, CEO of American corporation Centerplate, Inc. (which has contracts with BC Pavilion Corporation, the Crown Corporation responsible for operating BC Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre) was identified as the person abusing the dog (who is named Sadie) in the video and he has apologized, via a letter through his legal counsel, to Global Television.
Responding to this type of issue is quite sensitive – and never easy for a PR or communications team. While I wasn’t in the room and don’t know what was discussed or recommended by Centerplate’s PR team, I do have to say the response of a letter coming to one media outlet through Hague’s lawyer isn’t good enough. The fact that the CEO’s corporate Twitter account and the company’s Facebook page were shut down tells you: a) how strong reaction is to this incident of animal abuse and b) that the company – and by the company, I mean Hague – doesn’t want to hear what we, as the public, have to say.
I work on a lot of issues and have had many where a high profile individual had to step forward, take responsibility and say he/she is sorry for their actions. One of the key elements of the apology is that it has to be authentic; the person truly needs to be sorry for their actions – not that they got caught. People aren’t stupid – they can smell when it is fake and can see through someone who is saying the right thing without meaning it. To me, Hague’s letter stinks to high heaven. I don’t believe him and I don’t think many do.
I also found it interesting – and I have searched for it – that no one from his personal or professional life has stepped forward to defend his character. A good person who makes a bad decision will have a community of people who will jump into the fray on social media and support that person. There wasn’t a peep or a tweet or a public FB update out there that did that.
Hague should have immediately made a video where he apologized and explained himself to us and publicly to Sadie’s person (apparently Sadie is not his dog). He should make a sizeable donation to the BC SPCA or another group that helps abused animals. And he should take the heat on social media – by shutting it down, he has effectively locked himself in his office and closed the curtains, refusing to speak to his stakeholders. That is not how you handle an issue. While Hague can pull his Twitter account, he can’t get rid of all of the tweets about this issue and it is clear that it touched a nerve.
There are also questions that remain unanswered – the SPCA said that when they went to the apartment, the dog was found in its cage, surrounded by the stench of urine, and her food and water bowls were out of reach. There is more to this case than what happened in the elevator – which was bad enough.
Success in reputation management and issues communication only comes when there is integrity, authenticity and a commitment to making things right. If you are facing an issue because of the actions of an individual or a group of individuals, and the person or persons just want it to go away, you can put lipstick on a pig for the short term… but in the long term, it doesn’t work. Our world is far too connected. The person or persons involved will do something else that puts them in the spotlight for the wrong reason. Videos in elevators, cell phones with videos, social media, electronic messages… it will come back to bite you – lipstick and all.
Every organization planning to host an event wants media coverage. It’s a way to create awareness and raise the profile of your organization, your products or services, your brand, and your spokesperson. Depending on the event, media coverage may lead to more attendance the following day or the next year (if it is an annual event).
How do you engage the media and make them interested enough to want to know more?
An AHA client recently held an event that we were able to generate a tremendous amount of coverage on. Media coverage included eight newspaper articles, four television feature segments (three to eight minutes long), three radio feature segments, nine website/blog features, and 14 event listings – excellent coverage for a local first-time event. (Needless to say, our client loves us even more now. And we love them right back.)
We’ve decided to share a few tips and hints on how you can generate strong media coverage for your next event.
Host a Public Event
Rather than just inviting people on your networking or sales database, invite the public. The more people that the event is open to, the more the media will be interested.
Tie the Event to a Charity
If there is a cost to attend, tie it in with a worthy charity. Provide a percentage of ticket sales, allow them to participate with you at the event if possible, and identify ways that your organization and the charity can work together. Not only will this be of interest to media and to the public that may attend, if your event benefits a charity in some way, you may also get event suppliers to provide their products and services to you at a discounted rate.
Hold a Great Event
It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming the event is great and that it deserves media coverage. Brainstorm with people in your organization and think blue sky! Those seemingly over-the-top ideas may be what are needed to host a great event, get lots of interest from the public, and grab the media’s attention. Are there fun things you can incorporate? Media love children, animals, unique activities and special opportunities. Think about how you can pitch the event to media by tying it into a current trend or time of year. What will make the event be of interest to a large segment of the population – that is what media will want to know.
Submit Information to Event Listings
There are many media outlets, websites and blogs that offer free event listings. Develop a short paragraph of the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of your event and reach out. Make sure you understand the format that this information needs to be presented in for each outlet. (They are generally all different.)
When a journalist e-mails or calls, be ready at a moment’s notice to respond. Take the call or immediately call them back. Have your key messages on the “tip of your tongue” and be ready to tell the world (or taped over your desk as long as you don’t sound like a robot when you are reading them out). Ensure that your spokesperson is always available during the time you are pitching. You never know, you (or your client or spokesperson) may be asked to do a radio interview within the next few minutes or a breakfast television show the next morning.
Develop a Visual Opportunity Notice
You need a great visual to attract media attention. Plan this carefully. Let media know exactly what they can photograph/film at the event. The more details the better, but keep the notice to one page or less. Work to offer two or three great visuals so that media have a choice. One is not enough; there may be dozens of other events at the same time as your event. What visual does your event have to offer that would create interest from the media and put you on the top of the list over other events? It is important to provide media that come to the event with interviews with spokespeople.
Phone the Media
The day of the event, it’s a good idea to call the media newsrooms to make sure that you are on their radar. Just because you sent information to them, that doesn’t mean they saw it. A newsroom receives hundreds or even thousands of e-mails a day. Be prepared for a brief 10-second call (that’s about all the time you will get) to explain the visuals of your event. Have your pitch ready – make it brief, but make sure you have enough information to interest the journalist on the other end of the telephone line.
The key to engaging media to attend and cover your event is in the preparation. The publicity magic happens for your event in the planning stages. Making the effort to plan will result in strong, positive media coverage.