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May 2, 2011
A Lady Shows How to Own Up
PC World takes advantage of some recent cyber upsets to lay out a spectrum of responses to PR crises, from Apple to a lady inTexas. The lady, Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs, wins for demonstrating how empathy with the public needs to be the core element in crisis communication. In their own, less than exemplary responses, Apple, Verizon, and Sony PlayStation essentially skirted the public's concerns.

In Texas, when Comptroller Combs learned that sensitive information on millions of Texans, including social security numbers, had been left exposed on the Web, she fired two IT managers involved, then took full responsibility for the incident and apologized for it. "This incident," she said in a statement, "has affected the lives of Texans that I have dedicated my life to serving, and I am determined to restore their faith in the Comptroller's office." For their part, Apple, Sony, and Verizon sought to distance themselves from embarrassment. Not so great, guys, and the public can tell the difference.

Harry McCracken on Technologizer recently broke down what an acknowledgement statement should look like, under the headline, "How to Tell Me You Let Somebody Steal My Personal Information." He's right on: Make it personal, apologize, offer to make things right, as necessary, and don't tell people how valued they are and that you value the privacy you've just compromised.

Susan Combs acted with aplomb — hers is a response to post for future reference.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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