Notice your attitude and media relationship: Don Blankenship’s poor crisis reaction

    As last week’s West Virginia coal mine explosion still touches our hearts, the coal boss Don Blankenship’s poor response to the disaster undoubtedly irritates the public. Blankenship’s interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer is so unprepared, unorganized and unskilled that makes himself in deep water.

People showed their disagreement and confrontation.

    The Linhard PR blog said Blankenship’s interview fully exposed his lack of sensitivity, unwillingness to address the obvious, and unpersuasive defense. While it’s important for crisis responders not to lose control of their emotions, Blankenship’s first words should have acknowledged the victims and expressed sympathy for the dead and concern for the miners still trapped. What Blankenship should have told Sawyer is that, at that moment, Massey is solely focused on the situation at hand and the needs of the victims’ families. Compounding the problems Blankenship created for himself is his poor track record of interacting with media. 

    TJ Walker speaks about Don Blankenship’s relationship with the media is not the best role model. The CEO, especially in times of crisis, is the most important person for the corporate. But he showed no sympathy about the victims. When the company is facing a crisis, there is no need to destroy your own reputation, which depends on your reaction afterward. “You got to take the attitude of being accessible to the media; you got to take the attitude of having sympathy for anyone who has died.”

Wrong attitude and bad media relationship.

    The explosion, involved 25 Massey employees dad and 4 missing, is a tragedy of enormous proportions. At this time, we should put our hearts on the families, friends, colleagues and neighbors of the miners. We can image the victims are suffering. However, the crisis response person showed no sympathy and blamed on something unrelated. His ugly face will be uncovered in the harsh glare of the national media spotlight when the facts about what happened are unknown. 

    What’s worse, he performed bad relationship with the media. He didn’t actively cooperate with the media, but refused to answer the questions directly and frankly. According to ABC News, Blankenship said “If you’re going to start taking pictures of me, you’re liable to get shot” in an interview in 2008, and got physical with the reporter. His arrogant attitude and unfriendliness with media will definitely affect the result of the crisis and ruin the rest of his career. 

What should Blankenship notice

    To show the active attitude and preserve reputation, he should well prepare the content delivered in every interview, build and maintain sound relationship with the media.

    Setting an agenda for your answers is very important when you hold a press or take an interview. Listing the specific key points will help you better deal with the unpredicted situations and communicate with the media and the public.

    Relationship with the media plays an important role in the crisis communication process. Media is the medium between the company and the public. What the media reports would more or less influence people’s acknowledgement about the incident and form the social pressure. A sound media relationship can help the company convey their information and make first reaction more effectively, and communicate more smoothly.

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6 responses to “Notice your attitude and media relationship: Don Blankenship’s poor crisis reaction

  1. Sasha Chinchar

    I think that it is crazy how someone let this Blankmenship be interviewed when he was so unprepared! If he already has a bad media relations history, they should have never had him representing the company in the media. I watched the interview and it is very shocking how he showed no sympathy and did not even acknowledge that something went wrong. He went straight into defending the company. He even compares these deaths to deaths on the highway! Massey should have been more prepared for something like this to happen especially with the dangers they are already aware of with coal mining. These deaths have touched the nation on such a large scale and all he can say is “we don’t really know what to say about it.” He seems to be more annoyed with the situation than sympathetic about it. He didn’t even acknowledge the victims of this tragedy; instead he just called them “fatals.” He made a weak argument that did not help the situation; he just made it worse. He and his pr team should be fired!

  2. Samantha Gray

    This has been on everyone’s minds as the weeks past, and I agree with all of your statements about the way that the CEO handled the situation. He does have one of the worst track records with the press and it is clearly evident why. As the youtube video link that you posted says, he should have been more concerned with the families of the minors who lost a love one, and truley conveyed that message to not only the families but also the new media outlets, to let the world know that he is on the families side and wants to help them. Unfortunatley i believe he could care less about the families and is more concerened with his own being.
    Also stated in this post is a point that people that are going to be representing a company to the media and public need to be extremely knowledgeable about what is happening at that point in time, and what the company is doing to help with the situation. The CEO especially should be well aware of all things that are happening in the company and should be able to respond with compassion to the families that are in desperate need of sympathy and condolences.
    This is truly a tragedy and unfortunately the completely wrong man was on the front lines trying to smooth things out and it just made the situation worse. Your post here is all truth and completely correct on the assessment of the CEO.

  3. Emily Schlotzer

    Victoria,
    I am a student in the Principles of PR class. We’ve been assigned to comment on your blog.

    First off, this was very well written and I thought you explained the tragedy of the West Virginia coal mine explosion quite well. It was a very sad story to read about.

    Don Blankenship’s response to the explosion was very unprofessional. I was suprised at the response he gave to the public. The communication was horrible and you would think a CEO of a company would know better than to respond that way.

    Your explanantion of how you thought it should have been handled was by far more professional. The families of the victims definitely deserved more sympathy.

    Communication is key, especially when there are victims’ families wanting to know as much information as possible. As CEO, Blankenship should know how to handle matters in times of a crisis.

    Thanks for writing this blog! It was interesting to hear your take on the matter. Well done!

  4. Jessie Behnke

    I believe that Blankenship’s poor response to the media time and time again shows nothing more than his poor communication skills and lack of public relations knowledge. As CEO of his company his strong suit is business, not sensitivity. It honestly could be that he doesn’t know how to communicate sympathy effectively. With that being said he handled the situation completely wrong.
    Can he hire a PR advisor to prep him before he willingly takes interviews or tells another photographer that he’s going to shoot them?
    If so that would be my advice to him.
    Blankenship needs a new face for his company in order to help keep his company in good standing with the right people.
    My humble opinion.

  5. Kelsey Vensel

    I completely agree with your post. Don Blankenshp’s response to the coal mine explosion was handled all wrong. As you stated one of the most valuable things you can do when dealing with a crisis is to acknowledge the problem and give your sympathy. If you don’t express remorse and give your sympathy to those suffering you come off cold and the public will not support you. It was also a huge mistake to not get the media on his side. Media outlets hold a great deal of power. Having on them on your side can allow you to get your story out and gain public support. However with Blankwnship’s attitude he as done the exact opposite. The media is not going to be willing to help him out again and he has done irrepetible damage to his career.

  6. Jennifer Owens

    I agree that Blakenship did not handle this situation correctly. In your post it mentioned he did not address the injured and dead at first, what exactly did he address? It also would be helpful to recieve more information as to what exactly his job is, it says coal boss but I am not sure what that means. Perhaps he was unprepared to deal with this issue because it is not a normal part of his job. This said it is still not an excuse but it would be more helpful to know more background on him to see where he is coming from.

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