Cavalry PR Team: News & Views - Cavalry PR
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Cavalry PR Team: News & Views

At Netflix, a slide into arrogance was a slide towards disaster

GINA KEATING

As a journalist, I always dreamed of being in the “war room” when a major corporate PR disaster went down. A fly on the wall, I would finally see how some companies correctly assess what went wrong while others worsen the debacle by refusing to admit the mistake.

In my book, Netflix: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs, I analyze a major PR blunder that torpedoed Netflix’s share price by nearly 40%, lost it a million subscribers, and sent CEO Reed Hastings into hiding from the media for a year.

In 2011, Hastings announced that Netflix would raise prices by nearly 60 percent and split into two web sites – Netflix for streaming and Qwikster for DVDs by mail.

Consumers were so angry that Hastings eventually canceled the split-off and apologized. The damage to the company’s reputation took two or three years to repair.

Here’s some lessons learned that I sometimes share with Cavalry PR clients:

1.       Hastings did not to listen to his customers and his PR team. Hastings later admitted sliding into “arrogance” on the basis of his past successes in prioritizing optimization over customer preferences. He decided that customers didn’t need an explanation as to why the plan ultimately would be best for everyone.

2.       Honest is best. After news of the price hike leaked out on social media, Netflix’s PR team wanted to explain to customers that the company was losing money on DVD by mail because of postage-rate hikes. Instead, Hastings told them to downplay the price hike as “less than the cost of a latte per month.” This in the middle of a recession.

3.       Don’t get defensive. Rather than admit his mistake, Hastings wanted to refocus customers on his split-off plan. Unfortunately, customers hated the idea and they let him know in angry comments on the Netflix site and his Facebook page.

4.       Make your apology at noon in the public square. Hastings posted the apology video on YouTube at midnight on a Sunday. The financial press was livid and, right or wrong, scented a cover up.

Saturday Night Live, the late night talk shows and bloggers were swift and ruthless in their parodies and scorn. Just months after he was named Fortune Magazine’s Business Person of the Year, Hastings had to severely curtail his media appearances.

 

Cavalry PR team member Gina Keating is a PR and marketing specialist, investigator, journalist and author. She is based in Corpus Christi, Texas.

For A Broken-Hearted Sister, Need for Counseling Took a Backseat to Trial of the Century

TANYA BROWN

There were two traumas that destroyed my psyche two decades ago – the loss of my older sister and the outrageous trial that followed.

We will never get over the loss of Nicole, but I could have emerged much less traumatized by the trial if I had excellent counselors who understood what we were going through.

But it was a different time. Everybody, including myself, was too focused on the Trial of the Century. There had never been this big of a trial before. The government wasn’t prepared to deal with all of the defense team’s maneuvers and antics—much less the crisis’s impact on the victims’ families.

Through the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, my family was assigned a victim-witness advocate who was compassionate beyond belief and who played a crucial role for my family during the court day. He escorted us from the DA’s office to the courtroom, protected us from the prying media, helped us understand the system and provided us with community referrals and counselors who could help us heal.

Trials are very dynamic and it is a different type of exhaustion. In fact, it can be a greater exhaustion than the crime itself because you are trying to understand something so foreign and confusing in the midst of your emotions. You are so emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically fatigued that even trying to comprehend the system can become incredibly overwhelming.

So, the advocate took that pressure from us and helped us navigate through the chaos of the Trial of The Century. I truly am so grateful to him. He is still in my heart.

However, looking back now, two decades later, there was something missing: A friend, a liaison, a coach.

I needed alternative means of support beyond our court advocate – someone to help me transition from a day of court proceedings to my regular routine in my personal and professional life.

Sure, the DA’s Victim Witness Program gave me a referral for a local therapist, but the counselor was more focused on the case and my sister’s children – the youngest survivors of the victims – than on my mind and all the pain that occupied it.

That neglect left me disenfranchised with therapists in general. So when the trial ended, I never reached out to anyone. I held everything in.

That didn’t work out too well.

As I documented last year in my book, Finding Peace Amid The Chaos, because I had no skills to manage the chaos, depression, anger, and hate that festered inside of me, I wound up for several days as a psych patient in the local hospital.

It sounds rough, but that was a key turnaround point. I finally started learning how to deal with my pain.

In the months and years that followed, I kept learning about counseling and psychology until I found myself with a graduate degree in counseling psychology, although my life experiences have given me far better training to help people in crisis than any degree on my wall.

Today, as a speaker, coach, author and member of the Cavalry PR Crisis Management Team, I make up for the wrongs of the past. Where there are murder cases that are so high-profile and chaotic that the victims have no one in their corner who truly understands what they’re going through and who truly knows how  to help, know that I am here. And I am with you.

The Trouble With Tears in a Media Interview

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TIFFANY BERG COUGHRAN

We’ve all become emotional when sharing a traumatic experience. We become weepy, our breathing changes, and before we realize it, we are inadvertently blowing snot bubbles as our shoulders give way to deep heaving. In that moment, our story becomes trapped; seeming to fight its way out of our body in blurts and broken sentences.

High emotion and tears may be warranted given tragedy, loss and grief. They reflect great depth and can move a viewing audience to action. However, tears, when displayed in the extreme, may have the exact opposite effect.

Firstly, tears interrupt the flow of the important content you are sharing. With each sob, sentences are abbreviated, facts are omitted or brushed over, and significant details may be garbled, making interview footage unclear or unusable save short snippets.

Secondly, it is difficult to maintain eye contact while crying.  Focusing on a camera while sobbing, wiping one’s tears with tissue, or looking down to avoid personal vulnerability, make the process of crying while being interviewed a challenging combination.

Lastly, crying creates a distraction from the topic at hand. In extreme cases, an emotional breakdown on camera may become its own headline. If an individual is overly dramatic or theatrical, even if unintentionally, it may prove to be damaging.

When being interviewed, find a balance between sincere emotion and sobbing. Displayed sparingly, tears can compel empathy from a viewing audience and give depth to effective, concise responses to the media’s quest for perspective.

Tiffany Berg Coughran is a PR and marketing professional, author, grief counselor and “charity addict” who has mentored many speakers, authors and celebrities on media protocols. She provides PR and crisis management with Cavalry PR.

Madyson Middleton slaying a painful reminder that we need to do more to protect children

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MIKA MOULTON

Once again my stomach knots up and the awful memories return as I read about  another senseless murder of an innocent child.

This time, it’s 8-year-old Maddy Middleton. I feel her parents’ pain and I know every moment of everything they’re feeling, because I had the same experience 20 years ago.

On Aug. 7, 1995, my 10-year-old son, Christopher, went missing from our small village of Aroma Park, Illinois.

As the authorities and volunteers searched,  my entire being was consumed by pain that I couldn’t stop no matter what I did. I kept thinking, “When am I going to wake up?”

When Christopher’s badly decomposed body was found, blessings were the last thing I could ever think of.

Once that all consuming grief began to subside, I knew that I couldn’t just sit and wallow in self pity.  I was angry that my son had been taken in such a violent manner.  Then I realized that anger is a powerful energy. And so I decided to redirect that energy into something positive.  I needed to find blessings within this catastrophe.

The blessings have come in the way of learning the statistics of missing children and what needs to be done to protect them.  I chose to create a nonprofit organization:  Christopher’s Clubhouse.  We provide safety education and prevention programs to children, families, teens and women.

Also this year, I teamed up with Cavalry PR, an agency that shares my vision. Together, when crisis strikes, we provide our clients with a broader range of services than they’re going to find anywhere else — not only helping them manage and share their story but also helping them as individuals desperate to have someone by their side who truly understands what they’re going through and who has the background and the resources to help them in myriad ways.

The majority of us go about our daily lives believing that all is well in the world.  We are saddened to occasionally hear about the missing or murdered child, never hearing about the other 800,000.  We have faith that our ‘system’ will take care of the offenders and absconders and believe that it will never touch our lives.  Most of us feel very blessed, we have a roof over our head and food on the table.

I am blessed that I have the strength to move forward and work to better our communities for our children.  I am blessed that, after catastrophe touched my life, I was able to redirect that anger into relentless advocacy for children and for victims.

But on days like this, when I’m thinking about how Madyson Middleton’s body was discovered in a Dumpster in her own neighborhood in Santa Cruz, not far from where she was last seen riding her scooter, it’s tough not to be angry. These tragedies have to stop.

As a society we have to work together to turn our anger into positive energy to protect our children from predators and teach them how to protect themselves.

 

Through Cavalry PR, I’ll stand by crime victims in their toughest moments

BETH KARAS

For decades, as a New York prosecutor and then as a national correspondent with Court TV and HLN, I saw too many instances where families, already devastated by tragedy, endured what might have felt like a second level of trauma.

Still reeling from the discovery of a body or the arrest of a loved one, they were now forced to decide whether to grant an interview. And to whom. And whether to give more than one. And what would be too much, or too little, as they struggled to turn their personal torment into a positive influence for others?

It’s mind boggling to think how these victims can be expected to handle the intense media spotlight, which can sometimes influence even very high-profile public figures to make  questionable decisions.

For example, in a May 13 Op-Ed piece in The Baltimore Sun, former deputy state’s attorney Page Croyder suggested that Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby hurriedly filed criminal charges against six officers only four days after Freddie Gray’s funeral as a “reckless or incompetent” form of “crowd control” to quell her city’s riots.

In trial after trial, I’ve seen traumatized families on television, unprepared for what to expect, only to be asked questions intended to make them cry.  Families have asked me for assistance in establishing a foundation, for guidance in getting a book deal, or just for better preparation for the media onslaught. In each case, I was frustrated that I couldn’t stand by these families at such a difficult time. Now, as a member of the Cavalry PR team, I can.

Cavalry PR’s emphasis on victim advocacy, support and empowerment is consistent with my goals. In fact, it’s the ideal place for me to channel my expertise in a new direction to help crime victims and their families, attorneys and other trial participants, and the wrongly accused and convicted, get their message out in the most meaningful way. This can be by publishing a book, raising awareness through their own foundation, public speaking, calculated media appearances, or whatever is the best way to achieve the client’s goals.

A year ago, I founded the subscription website Karas On Crime to cover Jodi Arias’s penalty phase retrial, which ended in March. I now use the site to highlight crime and justice stories and educate my members about the law, while working through Cavalry PR to provide knowledge, insight and courage to those facing great pressure and adversity under the sometimes blinding media spotlight.

Why we’re really called Cavalry PR

HOWARD BREUER

With the recent launch of Cavalry PR, some have asked about the name.

Is it because we have a big team that works together in ways that you might not see at another PR agency?

Is it because we have a more diverse network of professionals, with specialists at everything from legal PR to book deals to helping the families of murder victims and missing children?

Is it because we have a nationwide team with media contacts in many major metropolitan markets, as well as national media and niche media, such as business and legal websites and publications?

Although all of these things are true, the motivation stems from my nine years as a news and legal affairs reporter for People.

During far too many assignments, I reached out to the families of crime victims. Like the many other reporters on their doorstep, I had, what I felt, was a good reason to request an interview or even an exclusive. I typically highlighted that People was the biggest and most respected publication that regularly reported these kinds of stories.

The families understood this was true, and often cooperated.

Deep down, however, I wished very badly that I could do more. I was one journalist. Not the cavalry.

Something happened during those years. That wall that all reporters are supposed to have, that lets them feel only enough empathy to understand and write about the situation, had worn down. These crime victims, from places like Weleetka, Okla., where two little girls were murdered on a dirt road, to Sidney, Montana, where a school teacher was murdered during a morning jog, saw it in my eyes.

So when my business partner David Thompson and I set out to form a PR agency, the first goal I shared was to assemble a unique crisis management team capable of helping people in ways not offered by other PR firms.

We didn’t have the name yet, or the website, or the team. But that was truly the day that Cavalry PR was born.

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