Sunday, February 23, 2014

Olympics & Valentine’s Day: 3 Lessons for Associations

Having a crisis (within your association or your profession/industry) has become more likely. Escaping it unharmed is becoming harder.

Savvy association executives recognize the potential danger and plan ahead.

Can’t happen to you? 

Think of the pork industry when H1N1 flu was erroneously labeled as “swine flu.”

Here are three recent examples from the corporate world.

At Christmas, it was UPS that failed to deliver packages before Christmas and suffered because of poor communications from the snafu. See  7 Things Brown Can Show Your Association.
  • A company statement said, "UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments. UPS is experiencing heavy holiday volume and making every effort to get packages to their destination." UPS spokeswoman Natalie Goodwin said on Christmas Eve that "a small percentage of shipments are delayed and will not be delivered today."
Next, came a Valentine’s Day crisis for 1-800-Flowers and its failure to act quickly. See this rant “1-800-Flowers Gets No Bouquets From the Disappointed.”

 Here’s some commentary that flowed:
  • 1-800-Yikes. What’s worse than forgetting to send your significant other flowers on Valentine’s Day? Forgetting to send flowers to more than 400 significant others. Just ask 1-800-Flowers. The company failed to send flowers, candies and other gifts to more than 400 people, including wives, girlfriends and worst of all… moms.
  • Meanwhile the company’s Facebook page is under attack with no reinforcements in sight. Which reminds me – how confident are you in your crisis program? If you’re a little nervous reading this, we should talk…
  • At least the company managed to apologize and own their mistake… oh, never mind. I guess they didn’t. Their website has no mention of it. 
And, at the peak of the Olympics, US speedskaters blamed their Under Armour sponsored suits for their poor performance. Under Armour; however, responded quickly and transparently. Under Armour seems to be making mostly the right PR moves after its speedskating suits took a hit.
These three cases show the importance of a crisis communications plan and an association’s ability to quickly respond either for the association or for its industry/profession.

3 Simple Guidelines for Crisis Communications

  1. Have a written plan of what to do. Know who responds and who gets notified.
  2. Be careful about the tone of your communications. Don’t blame. Think about the crisis from the recipient’s point of view. Look back at the UPS quotes. Rather than “solving” problems, it enraged the “small percentage” of customers who were inconvenienced.
  3. Include social media. Monitor what is being said. Update your website and social media pages quickly, accurately and transparently. 
Are you ready? Do you have a crisis communications plan? Please share your thoughts at

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