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Client Remains Confidential Case Study

Overview

When the president of one of their companies was arrested for an alleged racially charged altercation during a cross country flight involving a small child, leaders of the parent company recognized they had to do something to protect the company’s reputation. They sought the help of DPK Public Relations just as the story was catching fire on social networking sites. The angry backlash from around the world was just beginning. DPK Public Relations worked quickly and within hours had developed and disseminated strongly worded communications that made the company’s position clear. Behind the scenes, public relations counselors helped the company’s leadership navigate a series of difficult decisions, leading to the separation of the executive involved in the incident. The company’s quick, decisive actions and words were applauded and the company’s reputation was protected.

Execution

DPK Public Relations quickly assessed the situation. Reports from traditional media had started to circulate earlier in the day, even before the company had been alerted by the executive that he had been arrested. By the time the PR counselors were onboard, major online news portals such as Huffington Post, The Smoking Gun and others were prominently featuring the story. DPK Public Relations advised the company that it was essential to issue a statement to acknowledge the facts that were known at the time and to state its general point of view about what was known. It was also appropriate under the circumstances to suspend the executive and start an independent investigation of the matter.

Within an hour, a strongly worded statement was developed, approved and disseminated. The statement articulated the company’s compassion for the people involved and disgust at the alleged events that led to the arrest. As reported by the Associated Press, the statement said, “We wish to emphasize that the behavior that has been described is contradictory to our values, embarrassing and does not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business.”

The statement further explained that the company was investigating and had suspended the executive. DPK Public Relations managed the intense influx of media inquiries, referring to the statement, which journalists found satisfactory. We took the message to social media, establishing a special Twitter presence to manage online interactions. Concurrently, we developed and delivered messages for employees of the company, along with guidance for potential media interactions and responses to potential questions from customers.

These actions were completed within hours and helped to quell the rising anger that had been generated. However, we knew it was only a matter of time before others who were involved would step forward with their own statements. We proactively sought to contact the parents involved in the incident to express our concern personally (we ended up interacting with their attorney) while working behind the scenes to conclude the investigation as quickly as feasible.
Before the next workday, the company issued a new statement announcing the executive was no longer employed by the company. We provided messages for employees, guidance on how to respond to e-mails and phone calls, and responded to media inquiries.

Results

DPK Public Relations was engaged on Friday afternoon. By Monday morning, the issue was essentially over for the company and its reputation was protected, if not enhanced by its quick and definitive response. The company’s name was referenced in thousands of media reports around the world, but the vast majority of those reports noted that the company viewed the incident as “offensive and disturbing.”

Photo by Andrei Dimofte.

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Tags: crisis