Lizzo Apology

For me, keeping up with celebrity and influencer news is everything. Not in the sense that I am completely involved in their lives like reality TV but in the sense that I am intrigued by what they’re doing and how their choices or actions change public perception of them. Lizzo (Melissa Jefferson) has been a champion for body positivity and has been a welcome face in the music industry. Ever since her first hit Truth Hurts, she has skyrocketed in her fame. Recently Jefferson has come under fire for a lawsuit that was served to her by former dancers who worked with the singer. The lawsuit covers allegations of sexual assault and harassment, religious harassment, the creation of a hostile work environment, body-shaming, and many other allegations that painted the singer in a very negative light. The internet, mainly TikTok from what I witnessed ran with the story with many people reading over and explaining the lawsuits, restating accounts of the dancers who served the lawsuit, and people generally shaming Jefferson for her hypocrisy.

After the news was released Aug 1, 2023 Jefferson released a statement to her official Instagram account on August 3, 2023. The statement is a gallery-style post with multiple slides with text on them. The statement attempts to do three things: Displace blame from Jefferson onto her former employees, blame her employees for their own ‘unprofessional’ behavior, and overshadow this controversy by trying to invoke her previous good work. Jefferson’s apology was only posted to Instagram and no official press release or statement was made by her PR team. The apology was not received particularly well by the jury of public opinion, nor was the apology well written by any means. There were strategic points to release a statement after the official lawsuit was released, but the apology did entirely fall flat because of the attempts to displace Jefferson’s blame onto the Plaintiffs. Overall, Jefferson’s response was in general ill taste, and she did not actually provide an apology for the allegations set before her.

Pop Punk Public Relations, or Lack Thereof

Philadelphia-based pop-punk band Grayscale announced on April 25th that they would be touring with All Time Low, Gym Class Heroes, and Lauran Hibberd. This announcement caused the band to face immense backlash from fans and casual listeners of Grayscale due to some heavy allegations made against All Time Low.

In short and to keep it light, All Time Low are currently involved in investigations against their lead guitarist, Jack Barakat. While the allegations have not been proven true, there are such a large number of them that it would be hard to prove all of them false. A majority of the pop-punk fanbase, myself included, have ceased listening to All Time Low, as well as anyone who shows any support for the band. Grayscale has subsequently become the next band to be part of this.

After the announcement of the upcoming fall tour, devoted fans of Grayscale have decided to stop supporting them because of their apparent lack of care and love for assault and abuse victims. Being one of these devoted fans, I have been torn on whether to keep supporting them. I flew to the Midwest this past weekend to attend two of their shows at the House of Blues in Chicago and The Rave / Eagles Club in Milwaukee, and since I had booked the flight and bought concert tickets a month before the announcement was made, I went through with the plans and got on an airplane to go see my favorite band.

What tears me apart the most is the lack of public relations in regard to this situation. After Grayscale broadcasted that they would be touring with a band of potential criminals, there has not been one word out of any of their mouths about it, from either the band members’ personal accounts or the band’s account. Fans continue daily to comment on their social media to try and change their mind about the tour. Many believe that dropping off the tour and going on a headline tour of their own would not only make them more money but invite a load of their fans back into the fanbase.

In my opinion, a little bit more openness to hearing their fans’ thoughts and a show of genuine consideration would benefit Grayscale greatly. As someone with knowledge of public relations and knowledge of how pop-punk fanbases work, any kind of statement from the band would help the situation greatly, even if it is just something like, “We hear you, we will do better.” I believe that the lack of statements from the band makes it seem like they do not care about what their fans are saying in regard to the tour. It makes them come across as ignorant and insensitive, and the more silence they let their fans endure, the more fans they lose.

Implementing public relations and specifically designating someone to manage their crisis would absolutely help to save Grayscale’s image, reputation, and career.

Twitter Blue: Crisis or Opportunity?

Elon Musk is no stranger to crises occurring within his businesses. From exploding Tesla cars to failed SpaceX rockets, the billionaire is all too familiar with dealing in crisis management. With his recent acquisition of the Twitter company and app, he’s been seeing more and more criticism regarding his handling of these situations. With his most recent decision to monetize the blue verification check on Twitter through a new subscription called Twitter Blue, users have been in uproar. But the question remains: Is the tumult surrounding these changes truly a crisis, or will Musk’s already tainted reputation remain unaffected?

Before delving into the complexities of crisis communications, it’s necessary to understand what a crisis truly is. Defined in terms of management, a crisis is any urgent situation or circumstance that affects a company’s stakeholders. That is to say, a crisis is dictated by stakeholder opinion and reaction. As the CEO of Twitter, Inc. and self-acclaimed businessman, Musk does not have the capacity to claim an incident as a true crisis or not, but often uses his own platform to unabashedly share his opinion about the arising situation regardless.

When Twitter Blue was launched, the app’s users were divisive. Some believed that verification was a process used to protect celebrities and influencers as well as their audiences from fake accounts, and should not be bought and sold. Others thought that the subscription was a smart business move and that something as important as verification should be a paid service. Many verified users decided to, after the launch, remain un-checked in revolt of Musk’s new rule. Some users, despite not having a public following, purchased a verification check as soon as they were able.

Musk himself has been using his personal account to communicate with both sides of the issue, arguing with those who find this new subscription ludicrous, and praising those who purchased it. There have been suspicions of Twitter Blue subscribers being algorithmically prioritized on the Twitter feed and underneath Tweets, although this has not been confirmed. Musk’s personal beliefs have also seemed to influence users to leave the app and create discourse surrounding things such as his political beliefs and past/current relationships. All of this turmoil has led to a drop in users, with many deleting their accounts and/or moving to different yet similar apps.

An important question to ask as a crisis communicator while analyzing this case is: Who are Musk/Twitter’s stakeholders? A stakeholder is anyone affected by a company’s decisions, so one could assume that includes any and all Twitter users, checkmarked or not. However, many could argue that those who are not paying for the service should not be considered stakeholders, and it is this section of users that seem to be considering the Twitter Blue launch a crisis.

Musk’s image has been in a downward spiral for years now, without major financial effect on his many businesses and corporations. His stock has been unreliable and ever-changing, making it difficult to discern how his stakeholders truly view him and his choices. He is seemingly untouchable, making it through fiasco after fiasco and still managing to come out on top. So, are all of these situations actually crises?

I believe that it is a matter of opinion. The general perception of Musk and his companies are negative, but my view might be biased based on what media and content I personally consume. He still has a huge audience of supporters who worship him and his mind, regardless of the negativity that may cloud his name in certain parts of the Internet. Public perception of an individual is always factored into crisis communications and management, but it is not the end all be all for whether or not that person is facing a crisis.

In the end, there are still thousands of users who have subscribed to Twitter Blue, some who even openly oppose Musk and his antics, but still valued the verification over their personal issues with the CEO. At the end of the day, Twitter is lucrative and still one of the most popular and long lasting social media apps that we have today. It, and its dejected billionaire owner, will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

Arcadia Campus Renovation Pictures Spark Controversy Among Students and Alumni

American college campuses are somewhat of a unique type of place in which the students’ tuition and alumni donations funds the university but those groups are often left out of important decision making processes. It can often manifest in a serious disconnect between the community of students and staff and the executive departments that advance changes which affect students and their on-campus experience. Arcadia University recently had to reckon with this disconnect when the university’s instagram posted some before and after images of renovations that had been made to various campus spaces prior to the start of the Fall 2022 semester. The renovations included changes to the first floor of Landman Library, the renovation of Stiteler auditorium into a space for a Physical Therapy program, and the installation of a new student lounge and computer lab in Murphy hall. The images, posted on November 4,  consisted of several slides of photo grids that showcased the recent “upgrades” to those spaces. The post amassed over 350 comments from current students and alumni expressing deep disappointment, anger, and confusion with the changes made. The overwhelming amount of lengthy comments stand in stark contrast to the normal 1-3 comments that can be found under all other posts on the Arcadia Instagram page.

The first slide shows the before and after of Landman Library’s first floor where the older wooden tables and bookshelves were replaced with rows of newer work tables and a variety of funky and organic shaped chairs, stools and couches. The “after” images however seemed to lack intention as they left the space looking incredibly empty and not conducive to a productive workspace. The second slide shows the renovations made to Stiteler auditorium which cannot really be classified as an auditorium anymore because all the seating was removed and the stage cut in half. This was the point of most contention in the comments but before delving into the contents of those comments, there was also the final slide that showed an inaccurate before and after depiction. The before pictures show images of Murphy Hall’s photo lab on the second floor and the after images show pictures of the newly installed student lounge and updated computer lab on the first floor, an entirely different part of the building. This caused confusion as many students and alum thought that the photo lab had been removed altogether. Several commenters also pointed out how the library no longer looked like a workspace but rather an empty lounge area. Yet, it was the changes to Stiteler auditorium, also in Murphy Hall, that caused the most uproar from current students and alumni alike.

The commenters were overwhelmingly upset for several significant reasons. First, it’s important to know Arcadia University considers itself a Liberal Arts School and Murphy Hall is home to the Media and Communications Department, and much of the Visual and Performing Arts Departments.  Murphy Hall is also the oldest building on campus and has held a long history as a community space. Actually, Stiteler Auditorium was originally a chapel and up until the renovation had beautiful stained glass windows along the wall that looked out into the Murphy courtyard. The historic stained glass windows were removed during the renovation and not properly handled so when delivered to the Gallery staff who were in charge of archiving the windows, there were many broken pieces. As the comments explained, students and alum all expressed how much they loved and enjoyed the space during their time, their fond memories of seeing performances and club meetings. The overall feeling among the students was that their space and community as students of liberal arts had been disregarded and replaced with a space for something that isn’t a part of that community. Many current students also talked about how their times for performing arts classes and activities are being frequently interrupted by the new users of the space. Students also pointed out a variety of other updates that were truly needed in other parts of campus, especially the need for more accessibility on campus, and the low quality of the housing buildings. Another point of contention was the recent purchase of Bishop McDevitt High School which shut down a few years ago. The property has been a point of interest for the University for a long time but it wasn’t until the school shut down that they purchased the property. Many commenters pointed out that this massive purchase should have been considered as a location for the PT facility rather than taking away the already small space belonging to liberal arts students.

Several alumni even commented that they were no longer interested in making donations to the University because of this oversight. The Arcadia University account made one response in the comments which directed students to read the article with more details about the renovations. The comment was met with more outrage and accusation of disregarding the true feedback from the commenters. Then, about four days later on November 8th, Arcadia University released a statement. Posted to their Instagram page, the statement was directed to the University Community and apologized for their “poor communication and engagement on this issue”. The statement clarified that there is no intent to close or minimize any of the arts programs, and that  President Nair met with faculty leadership to plan listening and campus planning sessions for community members. It’s unclear who exactly runs the Universities instagram as in the past it’s often been run by media and communications students but not currently. In any case, the social media channel is one of the largest online representations of the University and it was interesting to see what their strategic response would be to the intensity of the comments.

Their key plan of action was to put together the listening sessions to show genuine concern for the thoughts students and alumni had but judging by the comments left under the statement, many felt it was too little, too late. From what I’ve heard the online listening sessions were poorly attended and people felt like there was no point in discussion because the damage was already done. Since the listening sessions, attention to the issue seems to have faded into the background of campus activity. It’s yet to be seen whether the issues of performing and visual arts students using the Stiteler space will be compromised any further. It’s unlikely that this will be the end of the controversy surrounding Stiteler in particular as the University has made a point of deeming it a “multi-use space”. For now, Arcadia can shift focus elsewhere but it will be important to see how they manage decisions surrounding renovations and especially the use of the newly purchased Bishop McDevitt High School space going forward.

The Try Guys Crisis Response

​​​On September 27th, 2022, many fans of the hit entertainers “The Try Guys” woke up to something that they thought would be unimaginable, Ned Fulmer had left the group. The Try Guys were founded in 2014 under the company BuzzFeed, the guys Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, Eugene Lee Yang, and Ned Fulmer. The Try Guys separated from Buzzfeed in July 2018. All four founders held equal power over their media house, Second Try LLC, and took a handful of Buzzfeed employees with them after the split. 

Back to the events of September. Fulmer, who has been married since 2012, was seen in August with a co-worker in a club in New York, “Ned and an employee were engaged in public romantic behavior” as stated by Habersberger in their video “What Happened”. The overall video is a prime example of a well-crafted crisis statement. Habersberger, Yang, and Kornfeld removed Fulmer pending an internal investigation regarding the affair. Fulmer was also removed from upcoming videos, and merchandise releases, digitally removed from other videos where he may not have been featured, and not releasing certain videos. The news of the affair also jeopardized their upcoming Food Network program “Without a Recipe Roadtrip”. Overall the estimated revenue losses from this were around 2 million dollars. After an internal review, Fulmer was removed as a founder and employee of the company. 

Moving forward in the video, Yang explains how the company was planning on making a statement publicly, and the full statement was not yet released pending the investigation; but because of the recent speculation and acceleration of posts on Twitter, TikTok, and Reddit action had to be taken and the now infamous “what happened” video was released. Overall the release of the video ended speculation online as to Ned’s recent departure from newer videos, and the rumors of him having an affair. The statement though was in the best interest of Fulmers family, Ariel Fulmer and their two sons Wesley and Finley, are living through the fallout to minimize the pain caused by the constant speculation.

Though this news was shocking, it was an incredibly well crafted crisis response. Watching the video and other social media statements made by Second Try LLC goes to show how much the owners care for their company, and care for maintaining their morals and ethics within the company. Watching this as a PR student, and someone who is now working in a small PR firm this statement was incredibly well crafted considering the events that transpired. The team beginning an investigation before a full crisis could occur, and then releasing statements across their social media pages. I’m interested to see what the rest of their crisis plan is, and how the rest of the year will go for them in terms of editing out Fulmer, and how the dynamics within the group will change as a whole.

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