Category Archives: Crisis Communication

Hunters Take Over PETA

By Hope Salyer

As public relations practitioners we are all familiar with crisis communication, backlash to campaigns and statements taken out of context. It is our job to plan ahead before launching a campaign. We have to ask ourselves, “What could possibly go wrong with this campaign? Is there anything in this campaign, graphics, promotional materials, planned statements, campaign slogans, etc. that could be considered offensive?”

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, we have to scratch what we were planning and come up with something new that won’t fall under one of those statements. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to know how things from a campaign will play out, and we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis just like PETA has found itself in recently.

PETA launched its “Shoot Selfies, Not Animals” campaign on Facebook, and very quickly hunters began to troll the campaign. The original idea was simple. With hunting season quickly approaching, PETA wanted the public to focus on taking selfies instead of posting photos of the animals they have killed during hunting season.

What they didn’t take into consideration? The massive amounts of hunters against PETA.


Photo Credit: Facebook

Within a day, Facebook began blowing up with hunters posting photos of their most recent hunting kills with PETA’s filter. The words “Shoot Selfies, Not Animals” layered over photos of dead deer, turkeys, etc. filled my Facebook newsfeed, much like the one above, and have continued to show up on my feed ever since.

Even with the massive amounts of hunters taking over the filter, PETA is looking on the bright side of the matter. PETA released a statement from Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman saying, “PETA owes a big thank-you to the would-be trolls who are spreading our message of compassion.”

Sometimes the best way to deal with a crisis is to look at it differently. While many hunters have changed the original idea for the photo filter, the campaign has reached a larger audience than it might have otherwise been able to. According to PETA, the campaign filter has been used over 250,000 times and is currently the most popular filter on Facebook.
While it might not have turned out the way PETA had planned, the campaign was still a success. It’s not always possible to think of every way a campaign can possibly go wrong, but it is our job to be able to learn from it, grow and finish the campaign with success.

PETA’s original tactics for spreading awareness of PETA’s message might not have worked out the way they planned, but the overall outcome was achieved. More people are aware of PETA’s message than they were before the photo filter was launched.

Do you agree that this campaign ended up being a success? If you were PETA would you have reacted differently to the backlash? Let me know in the comments below.

Hope Salyer is a senior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Vice President of Professional Development and Special Events and Programming of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s second year serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency or local nonprofit in Michigan. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email



United Airlines: How Not to Act in a Crisis

By: Hope Salyer

It’s easy to think about public relations as always being happy. With TV shows constantly depicting PR practitioners as publicists working in Hollywood, or always helping to plan a successful campaign, it’s easy to forget something practitioners have to face more than they would like: crisis communication.

We see companies going to a crisis constantly. Crises can range from something like the BP Oil Spill to the tween President Trump sent out about Boeing. In a more recent case, United Airlines was caught (and continues to be experiencing) a major crisis. (Embed in blog post. The embed link can be found when you click on this link)

The above video showing a passenger on a United flight from Chicago to Kentucky being forcibly dragged out of his seat off the overbooked flight. Passengers were quick to share the video on social media, and from there it spread like wildfire.

While PR practitioners have to constantly be prepared for something like this for their own companies with the rise in social media, it’s more important for us a practitioners to look at United’s response. Responses from company CEO’s and spokespersons can be analyzed to show what a practitioner should do and should not do during a crisis.

The response from United’s CEO is a prime example in what not to do. In an article from PR Daily, Hinda Mitchell breaks down the issues with United’s CEO Oscar Munoz initial statement.

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 9.13.59 AM


According to Mitchell, the problem with Muno’z statement started with the first sentence. By saying “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” Munoz ultimately gave off the impression he was feeling sorry for himself and United by writing this. Mitchell argues, and I would agree, that the incident was probably far more upsetting to the victim and passengers onboard than it was to anyone at United.

Munoz also says in his statement “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers,” and “Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.” There are two issues with these sentences. First, there appeared to have been no accommodation for this passenger from the video or statements released by United. Mitchell argues that the overbooked flight is a secondary issue. Because overbooking happens regularly, yet very rarely results in a situation like this, the issue is instead with United’s handling of the situation. The second issue, is with Munoz’s statement of “working with urgency.” Considering it took United 24-hours to respond to the situation, it is hard to fathom that United is working with urgency in response to anything in this situation.

Munoz’s statement is a prime example of what not to do in a crisis situation. Do you agree with Mitchell’s argument? What would you have done differently if you were United in this situation? Let me know if the comments below!

Hope Salyer is a senior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Vice President of Professional Development and Special Events and Programming of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s second year serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency or local nonprofit in Michigan. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email

Ryan Lochte: A PR crisis case study

By: Abby Cousineau




Ryan Lochte sets an example of what not to do in a crisis situation.

This past summer was filled with ‘hot’ topics to talk about, between Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s social media drama, the presidential election, the release of “Suicide Squad” and the Summer Olympics in Rio, my Facebook feed barely had space for any other updates.

Celebrity news is certainly hard to ignore, but hey, who doesn’t secretly indulge in pop culture drama? Since I’m a PR student, I actually love reading about the latest celebrity crises, my current favorite being U.S. Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte’s “over-exaggeration” of a robbery that occurred in Rio.

Anyone who has kept up with the news or with social media this summer has probably heard about Ryan Lochte and what went down in Rio. From a PR student’s perspective, I think this case really shows the importance of media training when dealing with a crisis.

Ryan Lochte found himself in a media firestorm when he decided to lie about a robbery that took place at a Rio gas station. Upon the swimmer’s return to the states, he almost immediately ended up on talk shows like ABC’s “Good Morning America” discussing the false claims and apologizing to his fans. Unfortunately, his public “apologies” didn’t make the situation any better because he came off as insincere.

One of the guiding rules of crisis relations, especially when trying to win back the trust and support of the public, is to be sincere. PR News ran a story titled “Ryan Lochte and the 3 F’s of Crisis Communications” in which they interviewed Gene Grabowski, a Partner at Kglobal. Grabowski stated that “the key to any successful apology is to show that you won’t make the same mistake.” Although Lochte did apologize in his interview with GMA, he did not succeed in making people feel like he really was sorry for his actions. Instead, “the highly decorated swimmer continues to ignore what Grabowski and other PR pros call the three F’s of crisis communications: you foul up, you fess up and then you fix up.”

Lochte has stated multiple times that he just wants to put the whole thing behind him and move on. He has attempted to do so by advertising his new role on the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars.” But just leaving the Rio situation unsettled is definitely not the best thing to do.

Mark Renfree at really said it best when he wrote, “In this day and age the public expects mistakes, but it also expects people and companies to own their crises and show that they can move forward. By ignoring the latter two F’s of crisis communications, Lochte continues to make audiences suspicious of everything he says.”

Do you think Ryan Lochte’s apologies were sincere? Did he “own up” to his crisis?

Abby Cousineau is a junior at EMU majoring in public relations and minoring in graphic design and marketing. Abby is currently serving her first year on EMU PRSSA E-board as Social Media Director. She was drawn to social media because it allows her to merge her passions of writing and design. You can usually find her outside any time the weather is nice, or exploring the Ann Arbor restaurant scene. Connect with Abby on Instagram @abcattt.

Careers in crisis management

Public relations is an awesome career choice, because it can be used in any field rather it be government, politics, environmental studies, social science, etc. Most people that study public relations also have specializations like marketing, business, media relations, healthcare communications, community relations and many other fields. One of the growing specializations is Crisis Management, but few people actually choose this field, because while it can be rewarding it also can be demanding and stressful.

What is Crisis Management

Crisis Management as defined by the Society for Human Resource Management defines crisis management as, “the overall pre-established procedures outlined for preparing or responding to cataclysmic events or incidents in a safe and effective manner.” It involves such activities like planning, organizing, leading, and controlling assets and activities in the critical period immediately before, during and after an actual or impending catastrophe to reduce the loss of resources essentially to the organization’s eventual full recovery.

Many crisis can arise at a moment notice, for instance 9/11 or the leakage of NSA spying habits by Edward Snowden. Some of the popular types of Crisis according to The Management Study Guide (MSG) are Natural Disasters, Technological, Confrontation, Malevolence, Organizational Misdeed, etc. Whatever the crisis, it is the role of the crisis manager to think about event before it occurs, plan for it, and prevent it from affecting or interrupting day-to-day operations.



The Law Dictionary says the goal of crisis management is, “learning to recognize signals that a disaster might be approaching. Develop a plan to prepare for or prevent a crisis. Know how to contain the crisis and any resulting damage.” One of the most important parts of crisis management is the evaluation stage. This is the part where managers and organizations get to see if their current plan was successful at thwarting the crisis occurred and what could be done better next time to better prepare or prevent the crisis from occurring.

Necessary Education

Now that you know what crisis management is all about, I’m sure you’re wondering what kind of education is necessary. Well I’m glad you asked! To begin a career in crisis management you simply need a bachelor’s degree in either Public Relations, Crisis Management, Emergency Management, etc., however there is no one universal degree that will prepare you for a career in crisis management.

It’s also important to gain work experience as this can help you gain experience and help you move up the corporate ladder. Many people will go on to earn a Master’s Degree in hope of moving into the Director position. Be advised that the career overall is fairly old in the organization eyes, however the role is taking shape as an actual career tract. Currently there are 180 universities that offer higher learning in crisis management or emergency management.

What is the pay for Entry Level

The overall pay depends on the level of experience and your position on the hierarchical organization chart. However, it is suspected by The Law Dictionary that salaries fall in the median range of approximately $53,000.

DeAndre Brown
VP of Community Relations

Brands and Crisis: How they Respond

Major brands and public figures have had their share of public relations crises throughout the years. Some particularly image tarnishing crises include the Deep Horizon oil spoll, Chris Brown’s assault of Rihanna, and Tiger Woods’ countless infidelities.

Whether a client sinks or swims following a crisis can largely depend on how their public relation’s team chooses to handle the incident.

A blog that discusses crisis public relations listed five steps for handling a crisis as a PR professional. The five steps were: addressing the crisis immediately after it happens, being honest about the incident, sharing information, showing that you conecommcomcare about those that have been affected by the crisis and maintaining two-way communication between the client and the public.

It can appear to the public that there is something to be covered up if a brand does not come forward immediately and talk about a crisis. Often, being honest and admitting to and apologizing for mistakes will get forgiveness from the public. Assuming a defensive position can be damaging to a brand by making them seem unapologetic and selfish.

An article from suggests not scripting an apology, but instead delivering something sincere rather than an apology that is drawn-out and rambled.

Recently, Rick Ross was heavily scrutinized for song lyrics that many people believe allude to drugging a woman with the drug known as “molly” and raping her. The lyrics are from his song U.O.E.N.O and go, “”Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” The rapper apologized twice, but both apologies were widely received as insincere.

First, Ross apologized by tweeting: “I dont condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape. #BOSS” Then, he tweeted apologizing to his business partners after the public pressured Reebok to drop their endorsement with Rick Ross. The second apology read: “Apologies to my many business partners,who would never promote violence against women. @ReebokClassics @ultraviolet”

Ross made some mistakes with his apologies. First, apologizing solely over Twitter is impersonal and gives the impression that the issue is not of pressing importance to him. Second, he doesn’t do a very good job of making the public feel like he understands their concerns and is sorry that they were offended.

Ross is just one of many celebrities or brands who have not handled a PR crisis properly, whether it is by his own fault or that of his PR team. PR crises are going to happen and are sometimes unavoidable, but acting quickly and being honest, open and sincere can save a client’s image.

Chelsea Idzior
Guest Blogger, Student
Eastern Michigan University

Important steps to take when you’re hit with a crisis

Terrorist attacks and disease pandemics cause crisis management to take over. Even though the public relations profession is normally equipped with the conflict management process, which includes ongoing issues management and risk communication efforts, some events that take place may catch a company or the agency off guard.

September 11 is a big example of an event that even the best professionals in crisis management weren’t even prepared for. No one would have imagined for a second that two big airplanes would hit the World Trade Center.


Source: Verizon Wireless

Companies are under great pressure to give the public information promptly when there is a crisis.

Some things that may offer help on risk communication are explained in Communication World, a book by Suzanne Zoda. The list includes:

  • Begin early and initiate a dialogue
  • Actively solicit and identify concerns
  • Recognize the public as a legitimate partner in the process
  • Addressing issues of concern, even if they do not directly pertain to the situation
  • Anticipate and prepare for hostility
  • Understand the needs of the news media
  • Always be honest, even when it hurts

 These steps are great tactics to know when you are involved in a crisis situation and will help your company to be in good standing with other individuals.

Come to find out, some companies already know a crisis may arise before it gets out to everyone else and this is called smoldering crisis. The institute for Crisis Management found that 78 percent of the problems were caused by mismanagement in a case study they conducted.

This is not the case for all companies though. Steven Fink found that 50 percent of the chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies did not have a crisis management plan.

Other strategies organizations may use include: Attack the Accuser, Denial, Excuse, Justification, Ingratiation, Corrective Action and Full apology. The United Way of Florida has a Crisis Management plan and theirs is all spelled out in order. They have plans for natural disasters and financial crisis, etc.

But often organizations do not and sometimes cannot engage in two-way communication and accommodative strategies when confronted with a crisis or conflict within a given public.

In all though, it’s always good for a company to have a plan for the worst to happen. Even though we may now want to think negatively about our business, but hey things happen that are out of our control.

Better to be safe than sorry in the end.

Darius Osborne
Guest Blogger, Student
Eastern Michigan University

Carnival Cruise Line’s Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

2013 has not exactly been a banner year for Carnival Cruise Lines.

The “fun ship” company, as they are called, has had a string of high profile mishaps.

In February 2013, the cruise ship Triumph lost power due to an engine room fire. It took tug boats five days to tow the ship back to port. Because there was no power, there was also no air conditioning, no fresh water, or working toilets or hot meals.

By the time the ship reached port in Mobile, Ala., many of the passengers were sleeping outside as the heat and humidity made the odor inside unbearable.

Right on the heels of that incident, another ship, the Dream had a problem with a generator while it was docked in St. Maarten. After many hours, in less than ideal conditions, passengers were flown home. The following week, the Legend, had to be rerouted back to port, as it was having technical issues with its cruising speed.

Add on top of all of this, several incidents in which passengers have either jumped or been pushed overboard and it marks a very bad first half of 2013 for the economy cruise line.

Spokespeople for the cruise line have said they handled those situations the best they could and passengers where compensated for the inconveniences. In an article written for PR Daily, a website dedicated to public relations, author Michael Sebastian tracked the public relations response to the Triumph incident. He believed that Carnival’s PR team was in front of the crisis and did a pretty good job of keeping people informed. As guests disembarked from the ship in Mobile, Ala., CEO Garry Cahill apologized over the PA system and issued the following statement, posted to Carnival’s Facebook page:

“First, I’d like to start with saying how very thankful we all are that the ship is alongside and everyone is safe. I am so appreciative of the efforts of everyone involved in bringing the Carnival Triumph safely to the Port of Mobile.

I want to thank the United States Coast Guard, The Port and City of Mobile, Customs and Border Protection, and the countless other parties who have been incredibly helpful throughout.

I’d also like to thank our shore side teams for working around the clock to make this happen.  And finally, I want to thank our crew for all they have done. We have seen and heard so many reports, online and in the media, from passengers praising the crew’s hard work.

I am now going onboard to talk with our guests and crew, as well as to help with getting our guests off the ship and on their way home. Thank you.”

Source: Go Travel

Source: Go Travel

While issuing that statement and keeping people updated about the crisis on Facebook and Twitter is a good thing, and having the CEO personally speak to guests is a step in the right direction, with the other incidents starting to pile up, what does Carnival have to do to reclaim the ground lost during the first half of this year?

Toward the end of March, Carnival announced plans that it would initiate a “fleet wide assessment” and expects fixes to be made through 2014.

However, the company was not specific as to what kind of fixes will be made and how it plans to prevent similar issues like the ones suffered earlier this year.

The bad press doesn’t stop at just the mechanical problems on board the ships.  Passengers do not feel as though they have been compensated appropriately.

Passengers aboard the Triumph received a refund, credit for a future cruise, a $500 compensation, and a personal phone call. Carnival Dream passengers received a three day refund and 50% discount on a future 2-7 day cruise.  Finally, guests aboard the Carnival Legend received a $100 credit.

Although the public relations department may have done a good job in relaying information to passengers and family members during these crises, there is more to crisis management then just providing information and a refund.

Once the crisis is over, the PR team has the larger task of ensuring the proper message is being disseminated through the media.

The worst thing that can happen is the PR team telling one story and passengers telling another story. That is what was happening to Carnival.  Passengers are contradicting the narrative which the cruise line wants to tell.

And that is a big problem.

In order for Carnival to regain its standing, the company, more specifically, the PR team must do more for its affected passengers, show it has learned valuable lessons, and reveal details on how it will prevent these problems from happening again.  A good PR team will be proactive and not wait for the next crisis.

Alexander Englander
Guest Blogger
Alexander Englander earned his Master’s Degree in Communications from The College of Saint Rose, runs a blog, Words Have Consequences and lives in Pawtucket, RI with his fiancé and their four cats.  You can follow him on Twitter @PRGradStudent.