30.06.2009 04:04:30

help sign
This past February marked the 25th anniversary of the Tylenol murders. In 1982, someone in Chicago tampered with Tylenol bottles, adding cyanide capsules and killing seven people in the area. During this crisis, Johnson & Johnson demonstrated remarkable control of the situation. The company could have distanced itself from the incident but it didn’t. The executives were honest with the public throughout the crisis. They made customer safety the first priority by removing Tylenol from shelves nationwide and reengineering the product bottle in a move that revolutionized how over the counter medications are packaged. They even offered a $100,000 reward in an effort to catch the killer who remains as yet unidentified. This incident could have irreparably damaged J&J and the Tylenol brand, but instead the company emerged stronger as it proved through action that customer safety and human life was paramount to the organization.

Also this past February, a McDonald’s employee was denied his claim to workers comp after more than $300,000 in medical expenses. The preceding August, at an Arkansas McDonald’s, a male customer was hitting a woman. Nigel Haskett, a McDonald’s employee, proceeded to break up the altercation and forced the man outside. The man returned and shot the employee multiple times. McDonalds’ insurance company said, “We’ve denied this claim in its entirety. It’s our opinion that Mr. Haskett’s injuries did not arise out of or within the course of his employment.” At this point, neither the insurance company nor McDonald’s are willing to provide any compensation to Nigel Haskett as a consequence of his brave actions while working on the job.

Instead of treating Haskett like the hero the community has made him out to be, McDonald’s is avoiding the situation altogether, hiding behind a legal cloak. If McDonald’s would have simply paid for Nigel’s medical bills, despite the insurance company’s denial, the company would have emerged as a heroic organization, one that genuinely cares for its employees. Instead, the opposite view has spread throughout the internet, tainted the company’s image, and damaged McDonalds’ perception with potential employees and customers who now refuse to support an organization that mistreats or ignores the needs of its employees. What a missed opportunity to stand for something besides burgers and fries.

Every crisis, though never hoped for, is an opportunity to showcase what the company and its people are made of. The danger lies in not being prepared and not seeing things clearly. Ideally, a company will think about the worst things that could happen to the organization and then create a plan for dealing with it. This “Crisis Communications Plan” is then available if it is ever needed, when clear thinking and time to react may be a shrinking commodity. Often in a crisis, bringing in an outside team with more objectivity and trained expertise may be the best approach. If a crisis hits close to home for employees, they can become the biggest hindrance to the recovery. And relying solely on business partners to handle the situation, or passing the blame over to them, is foolhardy and can easily backfire.

There are a lot of factors in play when it comes to crisis management, and under the circumstances, it may be difficult to avoid all negative publicity. However, if you remember a few key points, you can weather almost any storm:

  • DON’T avoid the situation; address it head on and be the first to tell your story.
  • DON’T assume that the existing internal team will handle the situation well. Ultimately, the CEO will be the only person that people will believe has enough clout to address the problem.
  • DO plan ahead for the worst case scenario; you’ll know what they are based on the industry you are in. The worst situations almost always deal with loss of life or property or threats on health or well being.
  • DO bring an external team in if necessary so the internal team can focus on the rest of the business at hand.
  • DON’T try to use the opportunity to garner accolades or promote your company. Stay focused on addressing the problem completely and thoroughly. Nothing else matters.
  • DO take positive, correcting action – be innovative, bold and determined. Ignoring a bad situation will not make it go away, it will only make people angry.

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17.06.2009 11:15:40

A study by Cone found that Americans expect companies to have a social media presence.  60% of Americans use some form of social media and 59% of those are using this media to interact with companies.  That means more than 35% of Americans are using social media to interact with companies and there are many more people that can be reached through these methods.

85% of social media users believe a company should have a presence AND interact with consumers this way.  So why aren’t more companies doing this?  It provides customers a stronger connection to the company and allows it to be on their terms.  Being able to interact online may help facilitate customer relationships and lets a company be easily accessible to their customers….especially customers who have generally been harder to reach in the past.

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04.06.2009 04:31:27

The morning of April 21, small business owners and executives gathered at SLCC’s Miller Campus for Thriving in Today’s Economy and left with practical ideas for running their businesses is this tough economy. MarketStar Chairman and Entrepreneur of the Year Alan E. Hall kicked off the morning with thoughts about the critical elements of building a solid organization. In general presentations and breakout sessions, Jim Bennett and Laura Guthrie of NOW Advisors addressed financial and risk management techniques; Jeff Jones of Durham Jones Pinegar reviewed a wide array legal risks and opportunities for these times, and Sprout Marketing’s Bruce Law presented multiple ideas about making big marketing impacts in focused ways. 

Take a look:

Here’s what was really different about this free Business Builders Series seminar:  instead of concentrating on just one topic, this event enabled small business owners to gain insights and network across several core aspects of their businesses in the course of a single morning.   Sprout, DJP and NOW Advisors sponsored this event and were joined by several key partners who donated their services. 

Join us at our next seminar on June 24, which will cover new topics. Check out the details at utahbusinessbuilders.com.

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11.05.2009 05:21:29

Check out this great article in Scientific American by Larry Greenemeier, illustrating Willowstick’s AquaTrack technology and how it’s changing the way we see underground.

Extreme Tech -  May 8, 2009

[Slide Show] Divine Idea: Plugging Dams and Tracking Underground Water, Using an Earth MRI

New technology maps water underground by following the flow of electrical current

By Larry Greenemeier

Sri Lanka’s Samanalawewa dam on the country’s Walawe River has been leaking since the day it was completed in 1992. In the interim, the country has spent more than $65 million to plug the leaks in its second-largest dam, built to power the 120-million-watt Samanalawewa Hydroelectric Project. A 2005 study found that the reservoir—located near the town of Balangoda about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of the capital Colombo—was leaking continuously at a rate of 475 gallons (1,800 liters) per second. And shotgun-type methods to solve the Samanalawewa dam problem—including the use of 13,640 tons of cement to reinforce the dam and the dumping of 1.8 million cubic feet (50,000 cubic meters) of clay to plug the holes—have failed.

The problem is that geologists and engineers do not know where all of the leaks are. So they turned to U.K. engineering consultant firm Atkins Global. Atkins performed a preliminary inspection of the dam and surrounding area for three weeks in February using AquaTrack technology developed by Draper, Utah–based Willowstick Technologies. The roughly $3-million project calls for Atkins Global to do additional survey work using AquaTrack this summer to pinpoint the sources of the leakage and spend the subsequent wet season planning precisely where to inject grout to plug those holes, work that Andy Hughes, the company’s director of dams and reservoirs, anticipates will begin early next year.

Here’s how AquaTrack works: Two electrodes—each three feet (one meter) long—are lowered down, one into the reservoir and the other someplace on the opposite side of the dam (typically in a sinkhole or other standing water downstream of the dam). The top of each electrode is connected with a wire. Once they switch on the electricity, "We’ve basically created a large circuit," says Paul Rollins, Willowstick’s vice president of business development. Because groundwater is a conductor, the electrical current follows it between the electrodes, creating a magnetic field that can be detected on the surface using a sensitive magnetic receiver.

View images of how AquaTrack works

Once the magnetic field is generated, Willowstick’s scientists walk the ground between the probes in a gridlike pattern with an instrument that collects data about the frequencies it detects underground. (The researchers are most interested specifically in the 380 hertz signals that AquaTrack’s electrodes emit). The instrument is contained in a box that is three feet (one meter) tall and six inches (15 centimeters) square and held upright by a tripod and can collect thousands of readings in just five minutes, according to Rollins. (The technology has already been used successfully at a number of dams, including River Reservoir Dam No. 3 on the Little Colorado River in Arizona and Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River in southern Kentucky.)

The circuit emits a magnetic field at 380 hertz that follows any groundwater it finds, Rollins says, "because water’s really the best conductive [material] under the ground." The greater the amount of saturation, the greater the magnetic field, which emanates upward where it is recorded by Willowstick’s surface sensing instruments. The gathered information is uploaded to computers at Willowstick’s facilities, where researchers follow the thread of any 380 hertz readings to map the flow of underground water sources.

This will help determine the source of the leak, even if the leak is under the dam, Hughes says. "All dams leak to some extent," he adds, "but we don’t want them to get out of hand."

U.S. companies have used AquaTrack to map dam seepage as well as determine the extent and location of groundwater those companies may have contaminated. Once a company that owns a plant or mine, for example, discovers it has polluted the local groundwater (or has been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the possibility that it has), the only real way to understand the problem to this point has been to dig a series of wells—generally six inches in diameter—to sample soil and underground water for contaminants, Rollins says.

Companies generally pay up to $120,000 to drill each well, so "they’re not going to want to put 100 holes in the ground," Rollins says. "By creating theoretical flows in a modeling environment, the scientists can create theoretical magnetic fields," he adds. "They will then model these flows until the theoretical fields match [the data] collected in the field. Once they get the shape of the theoretical anomaly to match the actual data, then they can accurately determine depth of the dam seepage or groundwater." The goal here, as when the technology is used to find dam leaks, is to inform engineers as precisely as possible where they should drill to either pour concrete (in the case of a leaky dam) or take water samples to find the route of the contaminated water.

AquaTrack is designed to function much the way an MRI or X-ray is used locate a health problems within the body prior to surgery. "You wouldn’t walk into a doctor’s office and tell them to cut you open to find out what’s wrong," Rollins says. "You’d first want to get an X-ray or MRI."

Of course, AquaTrack is not the only technology that allows scientists and business prospectors to better understand what lies beneath. Oil and gas companies for years have used the techniques of blasting or pounding into the ground and measuring the resulting shock waves to determine a site’s crustal composition and, more importantly, where they might want to drill. "The acoustic signal travels through the Earth, and at each rock layer interface some of the signal bounces back up to the surface to be recorded by the sensor array," says Alex Krueger, vice president of research, development and marketing for Headwave, Inc., a Houston-based maker of software that can make maps out of raw data. "Thus, an image of the subsurface layers can be created."

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11.05.2009 01:03:20

Striking a balance between traditional PR and social media can be difficult, but when done correctly it can have viral effects. I have found this to be true as we conclude a highly successful campaign and red carpet event for one of our clients, Goldsmith Co. Jewelers.

Pre Campaign: Low brand awareness, low to no online presence with a new web site and blog still under construction.

Post Campaign: Multiple prominent blog posts and facebook profiles. A flurry of tweets, broadcast and radio segments and significant print coverage. All attention leading to dramatically increased foot traffic. In the weeklong campaign, thousands of people visited Goldsmith Co. Jewelers.

People waiting inline to get thier free pearl necklace.

The campaign was weeks in the making, beginning with focus groups and participant identification. Partnering with a private consultant, we identified and followed multiple influential social media gurus. We approached each of them individually and offered compelling value.

We strategically arranged and framed a red carpet event highlighting Goldsmith Co. Jewelers’ generosity and unique approach to business. The evening consisted of pampering, networking and jewelry education. Each blogger received a beautiful PANDORA bracelet, freshwater pearl necklace, swag bag, jewelry cleaning and plating and amazing food. Supporting images and reference materials were also provided.

Dark yellow PANDORA bracelet.

Additionally, each participant received a coupon for a free strand of freshwater pearls ($100 retail value) to give away to their blog, facebook and twitter followers. The pearl coupons and media coverage effectively perpetuated the campaign into a viral model by providing value to both the media and consumer.


Our aim was to increase store foot traffic and awareness for PANDORA and Goldsmith Co. Jewelers in preperation for Mother’s Day, which we did. We took a balanced two-pronged PR approach. First, we reached out to and facilitated an event for a very influential group of mommy bloggers, tweeters and facebookers. Second, we followed up with a heavy round of traditional PR. This campaign is a great example of how using social and traditional media can help PR professionals achieve success for their clients.

Watch for more details, statistics, and coverage links in my next post. Cheers!

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