Monday, April 28, 2008


The link above is from Hispanic PR Wire. It's an article about how diversity in the newsroom can make media relevant to our communities.

This article doesn't just talk about Hispanics in newsrooms, but about how all minority populations are growing and changing our communities. If newspapers and other media don't keep up with the change, they won't be of any use to its audiences.

"Diversity in our newsrooms can make the media relevant to our communities again, and can be a key strategy in turning news organizations around," said Karen Lincoln Michel, president of UNITY, an alliance representing more than 10,000 journalists. "Our newsrooms must change if we are to survive. But it is clear that efforts to advance diversity in the industry are not working."

UNITY is a group that has recognized the disconnect between media and its audiences. Below is their vision:

The journalism industry has an obligation to deliver a complete, fair and representative picture of the communities and world in which we live. In order to achieve this, diversity in the newsroom and in coverage is fundamental.

We envision a nation in which newsrooms are inclusive and reflect the communities they cover, and where people of color hold positions of influence. To achieve this we will conduct research, convene people and advocate change by offering attainable solutions to the industry.

I have to say that I agree with UNITY. Communities are changing and media need to adapt to this change. I think it's part of the reason why the number of newspapers in the country continues to fall.

Exxon Case

Here's another one about bad corporate apologies:


· March 24, 1989 – Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef and dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sea
· The mission was to clean 1,300 miles of shoreline, ~15% of the area’s 9,000 miles of shoreline
· They had to restore the area to original condition

· Environmentalists see it as limitless in damage even though there were few remaining signs of the spill
· Alaskan food chain has survived
· Tourism has rebounded strongly and so have Exxon’s profits
· Exxon’s reputation was severely damaged

How the perceptions developed:
· Exxon focused on cleaning up but didn’t address the public concern that they didn’t do enough, soon enough
· CEO Rawl was characterized as opposed to serving as spokesperson or showing public interest bc he stayed in NY for 2 days after the spill
· He presented himself as rigged and aggressive once there
· He was inflexible
· Exxon created another situation that conflicted with its goals by designating a location for a crisis center
· Info was slow in coming, info lines were jammed, and it was hard for management in NY to get info
· Exxon didn’t address how the public perceived the spill and its effects
· It let impressions about long term effects form on their own
· Public found no reassurance that Alaska would recover
· Legal reasons made it difficult for Exxon to show remorse or admit to anything
· Media images were displayed of animals in distress
· April 3, 1989 - Exxon placed a full page apology ad and was badly timed and plagued with conflicting messages

How to prevent:
· CEO Rawl served as prime example of stereotypical negative perceptions of the corp executive
· Media portrayed Exxon as being money focused and inhuman
· Exxon should have kept in mind before and after:
o Develop a plan that will construct positive images
o Exxon could spent more time emphasizing personal commitment
o Conduct media research to discover the realities of opinions conveyed to the public
o Attempted to establish credibility by being honest and personable

· Exxon needed to make sure all info was accurate, consistent, and complete.
· Reveal what is being done and why
· Make sure spokesperson is qualified

From Public Relations Practices: Managerial Case Studies and Problems 7th Edition

Shadowing Experience

My first shadowing experience for Jour 4450 left me with some concerns. I think I noticed a conflict of interest with the company and whom they choose to work with.

The company, "Company A", completes thousands of tests for various businesses, mainly in the automotive industry by testing fuels and engines. An interesting aspect of "Company A" was that it choose not to promote its name, allowing it to work with whomever it wants.

"Company A" has ethanol and diesel fuel producers as clients. One of Company A's ethanol clients put "Company A's" name on its product and its diesel clients were fairly upset because ethanol and diesel fuel have to compete with each other in the market.

Is this a good, ethical reason for choosing not to promote a company name?

Any feedback is much appreciated.

American Airlines












April 11, 2008 Friday
Stranded fliers say alerts failed to notify them
BYLINE: Barbara De Lollis and Roger Yu
LENGTH: 451 words

Many passengers affected by the massive grounding of American Airlines flights during the past three days of cancellations said the airline didn't reliably notify them about changes.

The carrier usually sends out automated phone calls, e-mails and text messages to travelers who request alerts. However, more than 2,500 flights have been canceled since Tuesday so the airline can reinspect wiring components, and some of the affected 250,000 passengers said they didn't receive information in a timely manner.

American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey apologized Thursday for the communications breakdown.

It "certainly has not been perfect," Arpey said. "But we in good faith have done the best we can."

Cancellations are likely to continue through Saturday.

Frequent flier Jenny Shaffer of Chicago expected to make her 10:30 a.m. business meeting Thursday in St. Louis because American sent her an e-mail Wednesday reminding her to check in online. When she logged on at midnight to do so, she found out it was canceled -- too late to adjust plans.

American flier Dennis Lombardi of Columbus, Ohio, tried to call American's VIP phone line when his flight from Orlando was canceled, but it was jammed for hours. "I found out thanks to the morning news," he said.

Despite the unusual number of cancellations, the carrier didn't adjust its flight-status alert system, said Tim Wagner, an American spokesman. He said some travelers don't sign up for alerts or provide contact information if they use travel agents.

"In a massive situation, things are going to fall through the cracks," he said.

As airlines cut staff, most have been pushing flight-status notification technology during the past five years to notify passengers about cancellations, delays and gate changes.

The situation with American should teach travelers a lesson that technology doesn't always work, said Lorraine Sileo of travel research firm PhoCusWright. "We still have to take responsibility to contact the airline," she said.

Frequent flier Bill Edmunds of St. Louis said American is "not being open with their customers." On Thursday, a reservation agent told him to expect his flight today to be canceled. Yet nothing official had taken place, so he couldn't adjust his plans.

"They're holding everybody until the very last moment, so it makes it difficult to come up with other options," he said.

Mike Maloney of Overland Park, Kan., received an e-mail from American at 2:16 a.m. Thursday telling him his flight this morning had been canceled. When he called, an agent told him that they had already rebooked him.

Even so, Maloney is taking precautions: For his Seattle trip next week, he booked a backup flight on a Boeing 737 -- on Alaska Airlines.

Los Angeles Times

April 11, 2008 Friday
Home Edition

American Airlines struggles to get its jets back in the air;
The carrier's CEO says costs for customer care and inspections of its MD-80s will total tens of millions of dollars.

BYLINE: Peter Pae, Martin Zimmerman, Times Staff Writers
SECTION: BUSINESS; Business Desk; Part C; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1162 words

American Airlines renewed its apologies Thursday to more than 200,000 passengers whose travel plans were disrupted this week. Almost 600 more flights were expected to be canceled today, and the airline said it would be at least Sunday before things were back to normal.

As the airline struggled to get its planes flying again, new details emerged on the events that led to the massive flight cancellations and the Federal Aviation Administration's newly aggressive role in policing the nation's airlines.

While nervous airline executives refused to publicly criticize the FAA, they privately grumbled that the agency had been taking a harder line with airlines on complying with airworthiness directives. They said the extraordinary number of flight cancellations might not have been necessary if the FAA hadn't gotten "unreasonably" tougher in recent weeks.

"I'm not sure I would characterize it that way," a more cautious Gerard Arpey, chief executive of American Airlines, said. He stopped short of criticizing the agency for its role in one of the nation's worst air travel debacles but added, "It would be fair to say that the FAA is stepping up surveillance."

He estimated it would cost American "tens of millions of dollars" in expenses for customer service as well as for inspecting and repairing the aircraft.

The final cost could easily exceed $30 million, said Philip Baggaley, an industry analyst at Standard & Poor's Corp.

On Thursday, American canceled about 930 flights as some of its fleet of 300 MD-80 jetliners remained grounded for a third day so wiring bundles could be inspected to ensure compliance with FAA maintenance directives. American normally operates about 2,300 flights a day.

Including the 570 cancellations expected today, American has scrubbed about 3,000 flights since Tuesday, creating chaotic conditions at some of the nation's busiest airports and raising the ire of passengers.

American canceled 15 of its 92 scheduled departures at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday. Fewer than 10 flights are expected to be scrapped at LAX today. American also canceled a small number of flights today at Burbank, Ontario and San Diego airports.

Many passengers were more knowledgeable about what was happening at the airports yet no less irate.

Andrew Cerber flew into LAX from Australia with his wife, Kathy, only to find that their connecting flight to Las Vegas had been canceled.

"That is just really poor management; this is the last for me for American," said Cerber, 42. "If they had a customer-first mind-set they should've been looking at the planes already. That should be the first priority."

But airline and industry sources said American Airlines had little time to anticipate or prepare for the kind of disruption that erupted as a result of an obscure wiring requirement.

Executives of American said that on Monday, FAA inspectors initially found that nine MD-80s were not in compliance with an airworthiness directive. Subsequently, the airline agreed to have all of its 300 MD-80s inspected to make sure that wiring running through the plane's wheel well was bundled properly and posed no fire hazard.

But to avoid a massive disruption to its network, the airline said it requested that it be allowed to inspect the planes on a "rolling" basis, perhaps temporarily grounding 15 to 20 planes at a time rather than all at once.

Arpey said he left Dallas on Tuesday morning for a gathering of airline chief executives in Marina del Rey thinking the airline and the FAA had settled on a less disruptive plan.

But shortly after landing at LAX, Arpey said, he got a telephone call saying that the plan had been rejected and that the airline's entire MD-80 fleet had to be grounded for inspection. The airline, which initially planned to cancel two dozen flights per day, was suddenly facing the prospects of canceling thousands of flights.

"I left for Los Angeles with a brief heads-up that we had another issue with the MD-80s, and when I arrived in L.A. I learned that we were in fact going to have to re-inspect all of the airplanes," Arpey said. "Dynamically trying to figure out how to manage through that has certainly not been perfect."

An industry source said that the airline also initially believed the inspections would take 20 minutes or so, but they have been taking up to eight hours as FAA inspectors have had to sign off on any changes made to the wiring bundle.

FAA officials said that the agency had not gotten tougher and denied that American grounded the planes at its prompting.

The FAA has been under attack in Congress, where some lawmakers in recent weeks have accused the agency of being too lax with inspections and too cozy with the industry.

"We didn't tell American that they had to ground their planes," said Ian McGregor, an FAA spokesman. "We pointed out that some of the planes we looked at seemed to be out of compliance with our safety directive and the carrier needed to bring the planes back into compliance before they put them back up into the air."

Meanwhile, Midwest Airlines on Thursday joined the parade of carriers canceling flights because of maintenance concerns, scrapping 14 of its 290 daily nationwide departures to inspect the wiring on its MD-80s.

And Alaska Airlines said it had canceled 11 more flights involving MD-80s so that they could be inspected.

American said it expected to have 170 of its MD-80s flying by this morning and hoped to complete the inspections and repairs on all the aircraft this weekend.

"That's not an absolute, but that's what we're shooting for," spokesman Tim Smith said.

American is scrambling to re-book passengers on other flights, including those of its competitors. The airline said that passengers booked on canceled flights could request refunds or credits for future travel and that it was allowing people with reservations to re-book without charge. The airline is also paying food and lodging costs for travelers stranded overnight.

The carrier said customers should check the company's website at for details about compensation and to check on their flights.

But re-booking snags continued to irritate travelers such as Lilliam Diaz of Puerto Rico.

Figuring her flight home would be canceled, Diaz began calling the reservations system Wednesday night to re-book over the phone, hoping to avoid an unnecessary trip to LAX on Thursday morning.

"There was no way to get through -- I was on hold all the time," said Diaz, 52, who took a cab at 5 a.m. Thursday to LAX, where American re-booked her on a Friday flight. "I'm a relaxed person, but it's frustrating. They have to think about service."

With FAA stepping up inspections, Baggaley said that "it wouldn't be a surprise" if there were more flight cancellations at other airlines.

"The FAA knows they're under congressional scrutiny and they're being extremely careful and extremely demand

Corporate Apologies: American Airlines

After American Airlines' inspection incident and its hundreds of flight cancellations, the airline's CEO had no choice but to make a public apology. In sensitive situations such as this, an apology can make or break a company, affecting its customers perception and their loyalty to American Airlines.

Pasted above is a link to an article written analyzing AA's strategies and its numerous apologies. In it, the author talks about the significance of timeliness. Take bloggers like you and me for instance. People stranded at airports with laptops were able to blog and report on the incident within minutes of finding out their flights were canceled. Granted, AA couldn't issue an apology that quickly, but it took them a while to provide an adequate response. Posting press releases and sending mass e-mails to valued customers just isn't good enough.

Another poor planning issue was that the VP of Marketing was the first one to issue apologies via e-mail. People want to hear a sincere apology from the CEO or highest ranked person in the company.

Lastly, when AA's CEO did apologize, "he didn’t apologize for the inconvenience to customers, just for his failure to ensure safety standards are met.”

It sounds like AA wasn't prepared to handle a crisis such as this with an good crisis communications plan. For such a large and public company, that is unacceptable.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Enron Video

After watching a bit of the Enron video in class, I'm disgusted at the type of company culture and employee relations programs established at the company.

Working for an agency whose culture I could see myself working in for a long time, I couldn't imagine surviving one day in that type of environment. The macho, succeed at all cost, step on whom ever mentality is what I perceived to be the company's cause of death. Although this egoistic culture made the company very successful at first, I think it eventually blinded all employees to where the only thing they saw were dollar signs.

Mark Palmer, managing director of corporate communications at Enron, was there during Enron's crisis.

In this article, Palmer admits to having poor employee relations tactics. Although it doesn't talk about Enron's company culture, it just shows how they lacked necessary communications strategies. This may be a result of their focus on money. Where were their plans? If executives knew they were participating in illegal practices, why didn't they have some type of internal communications plan if they were ever discovered?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Band-Aid Solutions

In the world of public relations, Band-Aid solutions are never the answer. These pseudo-remedies often lead to even bigger disasters, whether they appear right away or ten years from now.

The W.R. Grace case is one example of a Band-Aid solution gone wrong. In the 1980s, W.R. Grace was involved in a lawsuit where the company was accused of contaminating drinking water in the Boston suburb of Woburn. In stead of speaking publicly about the issue and properly communicating with its employees and publics, the company chose to focus on the clean up and building relationships with the community.

In 1995, a book focused on the lawsuit was released and in 1998, Disney announced the release of a movie based on the Woburn trial.

Because W.R. Grace failed to respond in the beginning, the company was left to try and defend itself 12 years later, after community cognitive dissonance was firmly set. In the end, W.R. Grace drew more attention to itself by overreacting to an issue that should have been handled 12 years ago.

Even though things didn't turn out so well for W.R. Grace, Gladwell says "The Band-Aid solution is actually the best kind of solution because it involves solving a problem with the minimum amount of effort and time and cost.... There are times when we need a convenient shortcut, a way to make a lot out of a little, and that is what Tipping Points, in the end, are all about."

I guess what he's saying is when we want to spread messages, it's OK to use Band-Aid solutions because a little goes a long way. However, in the event of a crisis, such as W.R. Grace, Band-Aid solutions are never the way to go.