A Crisis Ain’t What it Used to Be

Did you hear about the crisis rocking Mountain Dew soda? Yeah, ┬áneither did we. It appears the rapper Mountain Dew hired to shill for them, Lil Wayne, said something offensive in a song. The company dropped Mr. Wayne pronto with apologies all around. You may now return to drinking Mountain Dew without guilt, or at least the guilt that might come from putting a few more bucks into Mr. Wayne’s pocket. The guilt over your health should continue.

While you might question Mountain Dew’s wisdom in hiring a spokesman with a long history of enjoying his First Amendment rights, what we find interesting is what this dust up suggests about the nature of a corporate “crisis” and the role of crisis communications.┬áIn the Internet and social media age, two new realities have reshaped the nature of crisis communications.

For one, audiences are fragmented. An issue that might be a crisis for a small section of the general population might not make a ripple in the broader community. Two, the speed of news–and thus the speed of a crisis–has accelerated dramatically. The bad news is that issues can blow up in a matter of hours or even minutes. The good news is, a crisis can have a very short shelf life. Got a crisis today? Tomorrow your target audience is on to the next shiny new thing.

We are oversimplifying a little bit to make a point. Businesses should still prepare for the inevitable crisis, should still plan a robust communications response, and should still do the right thing. But the fact is, crises don’t seem to have the impact they used to: they might arise faster, but they also disappear faster, and in some cases affect smaller and smaller segments of the market. At the same time, many corporations (though certainly not all) are getting better at recognizing and responding to crises quickly. That’s a good thing.

Of course, the occasional colossal crisis will still break through to the general public and can still linger for a long time–the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation comes to mind–but even here you have to wonder about the lasting impact. The Lions still play to packed stadiums, and Penn State still has a full complement of freshman arriving this fall.

The corporate black eyes seem to be healing faster than ever.

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Pardee Resources a New Wellynn Group Client

PRGOfficialLogo

The Pardee Resources Company logo

The Wellynn Group is proud to be assisting Pardee Resources Company with a redesign of its web site. Pardee has a long history stretching back to 1840 when Ariovistus Pardee started a company to mine and sell Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal. Today, Pardee Resources owns property in 15 states in which it manages the natural resource rights in coal, oil and natural gas, and timber. In addition, the company has recently expanded its interests into solar energy. The Wellynn Group is managing a redesign of the company’s web site, developing content, and overseeing the work of an outside web design firm. Projected completion is the summer of 2013.

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Boston Attacks Bring Out the Best and Worst of Social Media

reddit logoAs time passes from the week that began with the bombings at the Boston Marathon and ended in the death and capture of the two suspects, we have a chance to assess and understand not only the details of the crime, but also how it was reported in the media and–perhaps more importantly–how social media played both a helpful and harmful role in coverage and analysis of the event. As a number of commentators have noted, this is the first terror attack in the US in which many Americans participated in real time via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and other social media. Clearly, the days of “being glued to the TV” during a national crisis are over. Sure, many of us were still glued to the television–but we were also fully engaged with our fellow citizens online at the same time.

This was not always a good thing. Users of Reddit, the social media news and entertainment site, tried to organize a “crowd sourced” investigation that rapidly turned into a witch hunt (with one poor family’s missing son wrongly accused of being a terrorist). Reddit’s CEO later publicly apologized for the site’s failings associated with it’s “investigation.” Of course, traditional media outlets had their own well-documented failures. Critics pilloried CNN for its inaccurate reporting about a suspect being arrested. The New York Post reported that 12 people had been killed (at the time it was three), and later fingered two innocent Marathon bystanders as the “Bag Men.”Twitter logo

Whatever its failings, however, social media also played a positive role. The national distribution of the photo and videos of the two suspects was almost instantaneous as people passed them along via Facebook, Twitter and other outlets. Outpourings of support and financial aid to the victims have been greased by friction free social media.

As in other areas of life, the Internet and social media have greatly speeded things up. Four days after the bombings, the suspects were identified and captured. It took us more than 10 years to get Osama bin Laden. One gets the sense that the memory of the Boston attacks may fade more quickly that 9/11, too.

FB Like logoWhat is clear, however, is that social media simply reflects and magnifies the entire range of human experience in times of crisis: we share and support great acts of heroism, we do and say things that are incredibly stupid and hurtful. These human gifts and flaws have always been there and always will be. Social media simply gives us the opportunity to put them into action more quickly and easily. It will be up to us to decide whether that power is for good or for ill.

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