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Think Before You Promote

Consider carefully, or you could create your own crisis management scenario

In Oakland, CA, a city where the burglary rate climbed over 40% last year, Mayor Jean Quan came under fire after members of the public discovered that a lockpicking class was being promoted in her weekly newsletter.

An Oakland Tribune article, by Matthew Artz, captured public sentiment, as well as offering another damaging detail:

“This is awful,” one person wrote. “How could she possible do that in this climate? What’s next? The fundamentals of armed robbery.”

Another resident, Julie Mills, posted a letter she wrote to Quan asking that the class be canceled. “Of all the incredibly unbelievable things I’ve witnessed in my life, this tops the list.”

It didn’t help that when people clicked for the full description of the class, offered through the website workshopweekend.net, it noted that lock picking sets would be on sale after the class.

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Quan wisely did not delay her crisis management, quickly releasing the following apology:

I’ve heard from people who are upset about the lock-picking-class item. I understand their reaction, and I apologize. The class is part of a do-it-yourself, garage-science sort of event, and those are popular in our creative community, but it strikes the wrong note when we’re doing everything we can to bring down crime.

Now class, what essential, and oft-overlooked, ingredient of crisis communication was Mayor Quan missing?

That’s right, compassion!

Saying, “I understand their reaction,” is hardly acknowledging the concerns this may have raised, or any fear of burglary that has been increased. The fact that a burglar is far more likely to simply smash a window or kick a door in than pick your locks is really a moot point here, to be heard and respected response statements need to address how your actions made stakeholders FEEL.

Think it through

Of course, this is also an excellent reminder that we all need to be very careful of what, or who, we promote. This goes for any public suggestion or recommendation, whether in a newsletter, email, phone call, even the things you RT could land you in hot water.

Before you promote ANYTHING, think! Will this reflect well on me and my organization, or is the service, person, etc. I’m promoting going to, in Mayor Quan’s own words, “strike the wrong note?”

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