David Holmes

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page

#BioMarin CEO has temper tantrum meltdown over email

In Crisis Management on September 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or we grow weak, and at last some crisis shows us what we have become. – Brooke Foss Westcott, British Theologian, 1825-1901

BioMarin Pharmaceutical continues on the war path

Two weeks ago, I forewarned that BioMarin Pharmaceutical was headed toward a crisis and last week we discussed the accidental “reply-all” email the CEO sent out revealing the company’s crisis strategy.  I could never have predicted this week’s developments.

I have witnessed and studied crises of one sort or another over the last two decades and I have difficulty recalling too many examples of companies handling issues they face as poorly as BioMarin has.

Supporters of Andrea Sloan have forwarded emails I will share below, and in conversation with Andrea, she discussed with me her feeling of having been mislead by the company’s Chief Medical Officer, who is no longer a licensed doctor.

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BioMarin reveals crisis strategy in accidental “Reply-All”

In Crisis Management on September 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Everyone has hit “Reply-All” on an email by accident at one time or another. It is not often, though, that the CEO of a public company facing a full-blown media crisis emails his strategy to the people he is trying to avoid.

Last week I discussed the predictable crisis that BioMarin pharmaceutical company is heading toward and its ethical obligation to at least try to avoid that crisis. Since that article was published, BioMarin seems determined to prove me prescient.

It is difficult to imagine a company less prepared for a crisis of its own making as BioMarin circles its wagons to wage a media war against an ovarian cancer patient named Andrea Sloan who has only days to receive treatment.

This week, we will look a little deeper into the company and their CEO’s strategy revealed in his “Reply-All” email on which he included Andrea Sloan’s supporters, and which was subsequently provided to me.

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PR crisis in the making at BioMarin Pharmaceutical

In Crisis Management, Uncategorized on September 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

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Today I examine a company who not only serves as an example of the ethical imperative in the structure and design of a business, but I may even be able to forecast a crisis in the making. Most case-studies of crises occur after a crisis has ended or at least after it has begun, but the actions of the pharmaceutical company BioMarin over the last several weeks – while not reaching crisis yet – are moving quickly in the direction of one.

The background of the story is that BioMarin has created a drug called BMN673 that has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but which has shown enormous promise to patients who have gone through trials of the drug. Between 5-10% of ovarian cancer patients develop the cancer due to a genetic mutation called BRCA1. This drug was created for that rarer set of ovarian cancer patients. Creating drugs for rarer diseases is BioMarin’s specialty.

A young attorney in Austin, Texas named Andrea Sloan has the BRCA1 mutation and has fought ovarian cancer off and on since 2007. Traditional treatments are failing at this point, and Andrea’s doctors at MD Anderson view BMN673 as Andrea’s best and possibly last hope.

By what ethical standard can BioMarin continue to deny Andrea Sloan this drug which she must get within the next several days? A moral imperative should supersede a financial one when a person’s life is on the line, but how would BioMarin even face a financial risk in allowing this compassionate use of their innovative drug?

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How an innocent tweet can blow up in your face

In Reputation Management on August 19, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Over the weekend, the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott – who is now running for Governor – got himself in a bit of a mess on social media that should serve as a lesson beyond politics to all business owners. Of course, politics often brings out greater passions in people from the beginning, but it is not difficult to recall times businesses have gotten themselves into similar trouble. And this was such avoidable trouble.

It started when a lawyer named Jeff Rutledge who tweets under the handle “@jefflegal” mentioned Attorney General Abbott in a tweet opining that Abbott will beat Senator Wendy Davis if she runs for Governor because she is an “idiot” and “retard Barbie.”

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Actions speak louder than memos

In Reputation Management on August 16, 2013 at 11:14 pm

CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong’s handling of the firing of an employee during a conference call with hundreds of other employees reveals as antiquated a philosophy of corporate communication as the floppy disks with which AOL used to try to entice us all.

AOL owns a local news network called Patch. On a call with employees of Patch discussing the flailing subsidiary’s shaky future, an employee in Armstrong’s presence, Abel Lenz, tried to take a photo of Armstrong. The CEO’s reaction was to fire Lenz immediately during the call; the audio of which someone recorded.

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What businesses can learn from politicians and jars of poo

In Crisis Management on August 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm

While governmental agencies are quite different in their operations and expectations from private businesses, there are many similarities between the requirements placed upon them when dealing with the public. Government agencies, though, have a unique responsibility in that they serve as representatives of the public with whom they must communicate. So, while some of this situation might only apply to a government agency, many of the lessons apply to your businessas well.

Several weeks ago, controversial legislation was taken up in the Texas Legislature that brought out more activists to the Texas Capitol than have been seen there at one time in decades.

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Anatomy of a social media disaster

In Crisis Management on August 1, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Social media is both a great amplifier and equalizer. Business communication may have been forever changed because of the use of social media and we seem to see weekly examples in the national media of the growing pains individuals and companies face in acclimatizing to their new voices and exposure.

While there seems to be a constantly growing roster of teachers getting fired for posting something online their students shouldn’t see and an open list of shame to which some companies appear to be attracted like moths to flames, few social media snafus highlight the complete array of communication failures like this week’s firing of a food truck employee in New York because of his Twitter shaming of the company (Glass Lewis & Co.) whose employees failed to tip on a large order.

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Anatomy of Golden Corral’s poor response to viral video

In Crisis Management, Reputation Management on July 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm

The buffet chain Golden Corral brings us the latest business communication crisis wherein an employee shot a video of food being “stored” near dumpsters then asking the company for cash to keep the misleading video hidden – they did not, so for people who did not follow the story all the way through, there may now be a belief that the buffet destination could make them sick.

There are several elements of the situation that occur in many business crisis situations and are worth examining.

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Mediation in the workplace

In Mediation on June 25, 2013 at 11:01 pm

One challenge to small businesses is the absence of specialized personnel that larger companies can afford to keep on staff. In addition to all of their other responsibilities, human resources managers often serve as de facto mediators; helping resolve disagreements and other problems in the company. How are you supposed to handle conflict if you don’t have someone dedicated to personnel issues in the company who is trained to help resolve conflicts?

Most small companies deal with problems by either firing one or more of the employees involved in a conflict that is hindering the successful completion of work, or by limping along with unnecessary dysfunction.

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Taco Bell took a lickin’

In Reputation Management on June 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Memo to all PR and social media consultants: Taco Bell will survive this week’s licking and keep on ticking. If you were to search Twitter over the last couple days on the term “Taco Bell,” what you would find is mostly three types of results:

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