What Does the Source Say?


When I was in high school, I read All the President’s Men, by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the Watergate scandal.  Aside from being a fascinating read for a young guy who loved journalism, it was one of my first exposures to the concept of media sources and how they are treated by reporters and editors.  Read More

Steps to Remove Defamatory Blog Posts


Online reputation management takes on many forms. When negative information is posted online about a person or business, a number of strategies can be employed. A business can respond to the criticism on review sites, like TripAdvisor or Yelp, by replying to a negative comment. One can also reply to an offending blog post. Some companies employ online reputation management companies to push down (suppress) negative content.Read More

Lessons from an Online Lynch Mob


Last Friday night, I took a peek at my Twitter feed and noticed that a marketing guy who I follow named Peter Shankman was pleading for some Internet sanity regarding a woman named Justine Sacco.  Said Peter: “Yes [Sacco’s] tweet was awful.  But she’s landing to death threats.  Come on, Twitter, let’s be better than that.”Read More

Blackfish Backlash Continues

The other day, classic rock band REO Speedwagon joined a growing list of musical acts that pulled-out of an upcoming concert series at SeaWorld in Orlando.  The bands are protesting the theme park’s treatment of its killer whales as portrayed in the documentary film Blackfish.  From what I know about orca public relations, I think SeaWorld’s got a big problem.Read More

Bullying of a Brand


Embroiled in one of the biggest sports scandals of the year, the Miami Dolphins face allegations of bullying, racism and hazing. The details of “offensive lineman” Richie Incognito’s alleged bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin have been well-reported in recent weeks, and the problems continue to swirl-around a football team that was already struggling.Read More

Digital Reality Meets Jurassic Park

For years, the public relations sales pitch included a reminder that “perception is reality.”  How we are viewed by others helps define us, whether we like it or not.  But the definition of perception is actually changing, and it’s not just the mental image that people have of us that matters.  Today, we have to look beyond traditional mental imagery and also focus on how we are perceived digitally.

Perception is also digital reality.Read More

Catastrophic Success at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s opened in my neighborhood, and I’m told the grocery chain has some great products at reasonable prices.  Sadly, when I tried to shop there, I couldn’t find a parking spot.

The new location opened last week with much fanfare.  However most of the early reviews didn’t discuss the great food but rather how tough it was to park one’s car. Read More

Name Controversy Not Just Skin Deep


The Washington Redskins, a longstanding National Football League team, faces pressure to change its name by parties as disparate as President Barack Obama, the Oneida Indian Nation and shock jock Howard Stern.

The president said that if he was the owner of the team, he would change the name.Read More

You Can’t Be a Racist TV Chef, Ya’ll


The juices on her career are running clear.  The toothpick on her personal empire has come out clean.  And the top of her cookware line is firm but not yet set.  Paula Deen’s collective, loaded potato is baked.  She’s done.

The famed television chef, restaurateur and cooking family matriarch experienced an extraordinary fall last week as word spread that she used racial slurs in the past and allegedly exhibited a pattern of discriminatory behavior.  Food Network announced that her contract would not be renewed at the end of this month.

I have written about celebrity falls from grace in the past, and my typical refrain is that in America anyone can make a comeback.  But I think this one’s an anomaly.  In this case, Deen’s got her rear end in the deep fryer with little hope of coming out crispy and delicious.

Sure, she could have done better from a PR perspective.  Standing-up Matt Lauer and The Today Show is never a good idea, but remember Tom Cruise a few years ago weaseled around with Lauer about psychiatry, and we still go to see the Mission Impossible movies.  And while Deen’s YouTube apology was ill-timed and ill-edited, the damage had already been done.   She could have handled the situation better, but the facts are too damning.  The proof is in the pudding (likely banana with an extra-large dollop of whipped cream.)

And yes her lawyers could have done a better job for her.  When this lawsuit was filed, her lawyers should have negotiated a settlement quickly and quietly.  And clearly she wasn’t properly prepared for her now-infamous deposition.  Whoever prepped her for that deserves the Gordon Ramsay “Hell’s Kitchen” treatment.  Without question, Deen would stroke a seven figure check if she had the opportunity for a do-over.  Too bad for her, there are no second takes when it comes to racism – no magic television oven that miraculously covers up your miscues. 

Racism and prejudice, while still present in America, are simply not tolerated by our beloved celebs.

Radio host Don Imus, hardly beloved, was dropped from MSNBC and CBS Radio for racist remarks in 2007 but later hired by Fox Business.  One big difference between Imus and Deen is that Imus gets paid to be controversial.  He crossed a line, but he gets ratings for walking it.

Recently, golfer Sergio Garcia made an incredibly offensive remark aimed at Tiger Woods.  But Garcia’s from Spain (not an American icon), was already feuding with Woods, and was trying to make a joke.  He doesn’t get a pass for any of these reasons, but he quickly apologized and took it on the chin from his sponsors.  He’s still golfing professionally.

The difference is that we don’t invite Garcia or Imus into our home to help us make dinner.  We just watch and listen to them, typically in a villainous role.

Paula Deen is the exact opposite: While Garcia or Imus play the devil, she’s angel food.

Ask my wife about her, and she, like other fans, would say “I love Paula Deen.”  It made sense: She’s real, women relate to her and her classic Southern comfort dishes make us feel good.

So when we find out that someone we “love” is a racist, it makes the fall that much steeper.  Imus gets paid to be obnoxious.  Garcia’s a knucklehead golfer.  But Deen’s a lady we would all have over for dinner.  Not anymore.

Perhaps a heartfelt apology tour, starting with Lauer and Today, could start her on the path to redemption, but I think the damage is too extensive.  If she does come back, it will be in a greatly limited role, perhaps just to serve us leftovers.



Author: John P. David

Carnival’s Social Nightmare


“Instead of taking my family on a Carnival cruise for spring break, we’re just going to half fill the bathtub, climb in, and poop.”— recent Twitter post.

Problems at Carnival Cruise Lines have been widely reported by traditional media, but social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter have had an interesting impact on the cruise line and its brand.

First, the funny stuff.  A quick check of Twitter the other day found some really amusing observations.

Someone who answers to Bweezy (@bweezy1974) posted this: In order to rehabilitate its image, Carnival Cruise Lines has hired a man named Gilligan to act as first mate on its next three hour cruise.

Writer and television actress (I have never seen her) Sarah Thyre (@SarahThyre) suggested: Naming your cruise line Carnival is like naming your motel chain Toothless Hoarder Garage Sale.

Comedian and “Saturday Night Live” alum Kevin Nealon (‏@kevin_nealon) said: Glad Carnival Cruise Is not an airline. (Nothing subliminal about that one.)

And it was actor Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) who played Will Bailey on “The West Wing” and also pioneered poker on television (I’m not kidding)  chimed in with the quote listed above: Instead of taking my family on a Carnival cruise for spring break, we’re just going to half fill the bathtub, climb in, and poop.

And my favorite by someone called Andry H’tims (‏@Thing_Finder) who said: Carnival Announces Plans to Scrap “Survivor-Themed” Cruises: CEO Says People “Just Don’t Seem to Get It”

Aside from offering an outlet for professional and amateur comedy writers to try new material, social media plays an increasing role in how we learn about crises and disasters – and also how communications and PR pros must respond to the same mishaps.

Just a few years ago (before texting, Facebooking and Tweeting were ubiquitous), we might have not heard a word about the Carnival Triumph’s poop cruise until it was all over.  On the first week-long cruise I took about 10 years ago, I paid about $150 for the privilege of logging-on to the Internet to check my e-mail while we were at sea.  I remember a half dozen computers available in a lounge area; it was not a crowded place.

Today, most cruise ships have some form of wifi onboard and for a fee, you can post like a fiend to your social media accounts.

Tweets and posts gave media outlets access to real-time information about what was happening on the Triumph, at least until everyone’s phones died. 

The main lesson here is that every company should monitor social media as a matter of course, but especially during a crisis. 

Last week, when Carnival’s Dream got stuck in St. Maarten, Twitter was blowing up with reports of the happenings on the ship.  Carnival’s PR team (@CarnivalPR) actively reached out to media outlets that were reporting on the broken down ship.

For example, when Fox News reporter Joshua Rhett Miller tweeted that toilets were overflowing on the Dream, Carnival’s PR team responded with information clarifying that only one toilet had overflowed – hardly news.

Here’s the original tweet:
 ‏@joshuarhett #Carnival Dream turns nightmare: Power outages, overflowing toilets reported @CarnivalCruise http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/03/14/power-outages-overflowing-toilets-reportedly-plague-another-carnival-cruise/#ixzz2NWNzJGrT

And here was Carnival’s response:

@CarnivalPR @joshuarhett Saw your story on Carnival Dream, wanted to make sure you had latest info & details regarding plumbing: http://bit.ly/ZQ0WqS

The link pointed to this statement:

Information on Carnival Dream and Alleged Toilet System Issues
Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:33 pm › Joyce Oliva
We have had multiple conversations with the ship’s management team related to this subject.  Based on the ship’s service logs and extensive physical monitoring of all public areas, including restrooms, throughout the night, we can confirm that only one public restroom was taken offline for cleaning based on toilet overflow and there was a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom.  Aside from that there have been no reports of issues on board with overflowing toilets or sewage.  The toilet system had periodic interruptions yesterday evening and was fully restored at approximately 12.30am this morning.

Despite all the criticism Carnival has received for its handling of recent incidents, the company’s PR team clearly has plans in place to respond to negative postings online.  Perhaps the Triumph incident was just such a huge operational mess that the PR team was beyond overwhelmed.

Prior to the social media revolution, public relations and communications pros spent most of their time worrying about what reporter’s said and wrote.  Today, we have to watch multiple fronts.  Social media’s use as a news gathering and reporting tool by media outlets must always be part of the overall crisis communications plan.

Do you think Carnival can rehabilitate it’s image?  Do you have a plan in place to monitor social media for mentions involving your company?



Author: John P. David