SC Leaders Attempt to Prevent A Ferguson-Like Crisis Following A Videotaped Police Shooting That Stunned The Nation

Screen shot from amateur video

In what could be described as a swift and highly-organized response, elected and community leaders in South Carolina avoided escalating a crisis involving a shocking police involved shooting that was captured on video in North Charleston. It seems many agencies learned important lessons following a similar incident in Ferguson, Missouri where a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown last year. The slow communications response, lack of visibility, poor community outreach, and inconsistent statements all added fire to heated protests in the city, sparked viral outrage on social media, and ignited numerous protests in many other cities across the country.

It was clear that those who were in charge of the North Charleston investigation and communications team properly identified all of essential the stakeholders and kept them well informed on the latest developments. The spokespeople expressed genuine concern and were effective in providing available details to the public.

1. The mayor of North Charleston held a timely media briefing where he expressed sympathy and said the city accepted responsibility. “When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision,” he said.

2. The Governor of South Carolina issued an immediate statement declaring, “We have many good law enforcement officers in the field. What happened in this case is not acceptable in South Carolina, nor is it reflective of our values or of the way most of our law enforcement officials act, and I assure all South Carolinians that the criminal judicial process will proceed fully. This is a sad time for everyone in South Carolina, and I urge everyone to work together to help our community heal.”

3. The leaders also informed the NAACP and the victim’s family so that an earlier scheduled press conference was delayed. We could assume that the city and state would have been criticized for responding to unanswered questions.

Even though the city will have to handle a series of emotionally-charged public demonstrations (All Lives Matter), it will be critical for it to maintain a positive relationship with the community and the media as the case against the accused police officer goes to trial.

Read the New York Times article here.


The opposite is happening in the city of Miami Gardens where a police officer killed a mentally-ill man. The attorney for the family plans to release a police dashcam video that contradicts what was reported to the public. It’s described as a bombshell. The City is remaining silent.

Read the Miami New Times story here.


City of Cleveland Issues Apology After Publicly Blaming 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice in Police-Involved Shooting

The lack of sympathy expressed following the police-involved shooting of a 12-year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun has created a community relations nightmare for the City of Cleveland. Even though there is a pending lawsuit, the city’s actions are making the situation regarding the death of Tamir Rice worse as word spreads across the nation in an atmosphere of heightened sensitivities.

It is a common practice among law enforcement agencies to “demonize” criminals and suspects in the press to create a positive public impression about the department activities. However, we advise using extra caution, especially in cases involving children or when the agency’s actions are under scrutiny.

Shooting of boy who had fake gun

12-year-old Tamir Rice

Review Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s apology here…

NYPD’s Social Media Campaign in Eric Garner Case Does Not Calm Community Frustration

NYPD tweet about public trust becomes online battleground

Chief Joanne JaffeThe chief of the department’s community affairs division tweeted a hopeful message after the officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner was not indicted. It is a standard crisis communications tactic to improve community relations, but it wasn’t what people wanted to hear in the current atmosphere where deadly clashes with police have led to nationwide protests.
Photo taken from ABC New website

Several News Outlets Ignore Robin Williams’ Family’s Request for Privacy

The news of legendary actor Robin Williams’ death continues to garner headlines around the world. Shortly after the August 11 announcement, his publicist distributed the following statement from his wife on behalf of the family:

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

Moments after the family’s request for privacy, media watchers noticed ABC News had launched into full-blown crisis coverage that included an eye in the sky outside of the Williams residence.

Photo taken from ABC News website

Photo taken from ABC New website

ABC wasn’t the only news crew on the scene. Photographs from outside Williams’ home (click here).

The negative reaction was swift as news watchers began to attack ABC’s coverage on social media (click here).

In the meantime, several news outlets have started the coverage wars for exclusives and the most outrageous headlines. Check out TMZ (click here).

All of this activity prompted me to take a closer look at the phrase:

 “The family is asking for privacy during their time of grief.”

In an upcoming post, I will explain why one of the most used phrases in public relations is also one of the most ignored phrases in journalism.


Singapore Airlines Criticized for Insensitive Social Media Posts About Doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Singapore Airlines apologies for social media remarks it posted after tragedy

Hours after Flight MH17 was shot down on Thursday SIA posted Facebook and Twitter updates saying its own flights were not using Ukrainian airspace

A general view of the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flight, from Amsterdam to Kuala LumpurSingapore Airlines (SIA) has apologized for social media posts it made following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Hours after the plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board, SIA posted Facebook and Twitter updates saying its own flights were not using Ukrainian airspace. The move led to angry responses online, with many criticising the company for not offering condolences to the victims’ families.

Facebook to Track User’s Online TV Viewing Habits

The following is an interesting article about Facebook’s new joint alliance with Nielsen:


Beginning this fall, when Facebook users watch a TV show on a cellphone or tablet, Facebook will probably know about it. The social network will scan its databases and send the age and gender of the viewer to Nielsen, the TV ratings measurement company, to help advertisers learn more about the audience watching shows online (Read the whole story from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel here).

While this is great for marketing and measuring television viewership, what does this mean for consumer privacy?

American Apparel Posts Picture of Challenger Explosion, Mistakes It for July 4 Fireworks

American Apparel has apologized after posting a photo of the space shuttle Challenger disaster on its Tumblr account, mistaking it for an image of fireworks.

Obvious lesson here…