David Holmes

Posts Tagged ‘public relations’

#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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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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Crisis management and public relations are not the same

In Crisis Management on May 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Public relations and crisis communication are not the same. Search the phrase “public relations” online and on my first page of results are definitions of the term and advertisements from the PR firms near me with the best SEO – there is no mention of communication in a crisis and only passing reference to related ideas like reputation management. This isn’t surprising, because a public relations firm should have as its top priority the promotion and building of your products and ideas. And crises are kind of a bummer to think about.

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West Fertilizer Plant’s public response to explosion failed

In Crisis Management on May 1, 2013 at 10:44 pm

The explosion in West, Texas that killed 15 people, injured many more and resulted in tremendous loss of property and infrastructure in the small town shows the absolute need for better crisis management planning and serves as a worse-case scenario that you should use as a lens on your own business. How would you respond if a crisis in your company resulted in a loss of life?

I have been disappointed in the somewhat casual response by the West Fertilizer Plant owner – issuing a statement through a third party, but when it comes down to it, I can imagine few scenarios where his actions after the explosion would meet approval.

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ExxonMobil spill and crisis management

In Crisis Management on April 2, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Would you know if you had an oil pipeline built in the 1940s carrying thousands of barrels of oil through your neighborhood daily? Residents of Mayflower, AR were certainly surprised a few days ago when crude oil flooded their neighborhoods after a pipeline of which they were unaware burst.

ExxonMobil appears to be responding fairly rapidly to the physical crisis, but this is a pretty big failure for them that illustrates the importance of planning for problems your company is most likely to face.

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4 tips for improving your company’s media relations

In Crisis Management on March 13, 2013 at 10:13 pm

My first memory of media relations comes from my father’s first political campaign when I was 8 years old. After an interview, the newspaper reporter closed his notebook, put away his pen and asked my dad what he really thought of his opponent off the record. The words “inarticulate bozo” were then present in the headline of the article.

Like my dad running for office the first time, the average business does not have to communicate with the media on a regular basis and can sometimes stumble or say something that will not help them out. Most news media professionals perform very ethically and appropriately, but it is easy for lines to be crossed and messages to be mixed when a company and a reporter are not quite on the same page.

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Maker’s Mark reverses decision to dilute, misses the mark

In Crisis Management on February 19, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Sometimes you can get in the way of your ownbusiness and create a crisis where none had been likely to arise. Maker’s Mark recently announced they would be diluting their original formula, but failed to explain why, and while it may have been to expand to geographical markets that legally require lower alcohol levels, or to simply save money and keep their product pricing from adjusting, they said nothing.

It came across as them saying, “people love our product so much, I bet that if we make a slightly inferior product we can sell even more!” Is that what Maker’s Mark was really thinking?

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