In October 2007, Ellen Degeneres appeared in rare form on her show The Ellen DeGeneres Show very emotional delivering a direct message to a pet adoption agency that made one of the biggest PR gaffes of the year. It all stemmed from Ellen and her wife Portia de Rossi wanting to extend their family with a new puppy. Ellen and Portia adopted a dog named Iggy from a nonprofit agency called Mutts and Moms based out of Pasadena, California which rescues dogs and finds them a new loving home. Iggy had a rough time adjusting to the new home with their 3 cats and even Ellen’s dog trainer Zack Grey, who worked with Iggy during 12 days of obedience training, couldn’t teach him to get along with their cats and together Ellen and Portia had to make the ultimate decision to find another home for Iggy.
It didn’t take long for Ellen to decide who would be a better fit for Iggy. Ellen believed she had found Iggy the perfect loving new home when she gave Iggy to her long time makeup artist Cheryl which has 2 young daughters of her own. But when Marina Baktis, cofounder of Mutts and Moms, called a few weeks later to check in on Iggy Ellen told her the truth about giving Iggy away which started a whirl wind of the PR fiasco.
Ellen’s plea to Mutts and Moms to give Iggy back
According to the People Magazine’s article, when adopting Iggy, Ellen signed a contract that stated she could not give the adopted dog to anyone else. When Baktis visited Iggy’s new home she took the dog away from Cheryl and her daughters and returned Iggy back to the agency where he was later placed into a new home stating DeGeneres broke the contract and Baktis was following their policy. There was a major out lash from Ellen fans and Baktis received numerous calls, letters and even death threats. This led Mutts and Moms to temporarily shut down their operation and lawyers of Baktis made a statement that it had taken an emotional toll on her as well.
Although Mutts and Moms made it through the controversy it took years to overcome one of the biggest PR gaffes of the year. Mutts and Moms are still in operation.
According to Wikipedia crisis communication is sometimes considered a sub-specialty of the public relations profession that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation. When there is a break in communication before, during and after a crisis this can mean disaster. In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina was proof of this which officials still use this catastrophe as a reference of how what needs to be improved on for future disasters.
What did go so wrong in the first place? According to NPR.com state, local and federal agencies knew the big storm was going to hit and they spent the weekend before the storm in almost non-stop conference calls — making sure all the plans for food, water and security were in place. But even before the storm hit, some of the plans started to fall apart. National Guard troops in other states sat ready, waiting for orders that never came. Instead, they were told to wait for an official plan and a chain of command to be established. When they finally received an official order to deliver supplies, the delivery point was miles off of where the most help was needed. It seriously all came down to red tape.
While reading through the many reports of failed communication before, after and during Katrina from stories such as the one I found by Information Today, communication gaps where due mostly in part from damaged lines, no cell service, no internet and all powers of communication completely lost. But the bigger picture was that no one felt they had the power to cut through the red tape and step up to call out orders. Seems officials had so much bureaucracy to go through and that needed to change. Our government at all levels completely failed and its public lost faith.
President George W. Bush stated “This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We are going to review every action and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men, that could threaten our people”. The White House published a “lessons learned” report in which they re-evaluated how this county can survive the next big disaster with a strong communication plan using Katrina as a model of what not to do.
Recently with the Hurricane Sandy disaster the communication was much better. President Obama stated “We will cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules.” The state and local government levels did not have to wait for federal government to deliver orders. Emergency assistance and supplies were received quickly, communication gaps were tightened and cleanup efforts are well on their way.
Overcoming disaster is difficult but not learning from the past can be catastrophic. There are still many improvements that can be made but we are well on our way.
Picture provided by NFL.com/pink
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and if you are a National Football League (NFL) fan you know happens next. The NFL, its clubs, players and the NFL Players Association come together and to support the fight against breast cancer. The campaign A Crucial Catch, in partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS), is focused largely on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are 40 and older. The creation of this great awareness campaign was ingenious as it reaches millions of viewers every year to remind woman to get their check ups regularly. It also happens to combine both my passions in life, football and fighting cancer.
Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, play with special game balls and the fields bare the pink ribbon stencils all to help raise awareness for this important campaign. All apparel worn at games by players and coaches, along with special game balls and pink coins will be auctioned off at NFL Auction. Proceeds benefiting the ACS’s Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program. The CHANGE program provides outreach and breast cancer screenings to women in underserved communities.
Since its founding in 2009, the NFL has raised over $3 million dollars through A Crucial Catch for the American Cancer Society. All 32 teams are currently participating in the program. Some NFL players even go above and beyond raising more funds by hosting fundraisers through other vaious creative ways. Take Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald for example. Larry lost his mother to breast cancer in 2003 and he uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter to gain followers by donating 25 cents per every new “like” or “follower” he gets during the month of October. For more information on Larry’s personal experience with breast cancer, click here to watch a video on NFL.com.
Reports recently came out by The Huffington Post stating only 5% of the proceeds from A Crucial Catch program goes to the ACS. Although these numbers seem low, millions of dollars have been raised and more importantly million of lives will be saved by having these outreach programs it supports. Breast cancer is no joke and stastics shows that the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8. Personally I don’t like these odds so we have a lot more work cut out in the future. My beautiful mother Sandy battled breast cancer and will be celebrating another birthday this November because of great programs like this. She is now 6 years cancer free.
Me and my mom Sandy