Crisis lessons for PRWeek

The e-mail torrent that rained from PRWeek's website into my e-mail box (and I assume hundreds of others) was disruptive and frustrating.

The e-mail torrent that rained from PRWeek's website into my e-mail box (and I assume hundreds of others) was disruptive and frustrating. Because so much of my business as a communications consultant takes place via e-mail, having to wade through hundreds of extraneous messages and delete them was time consuming and maddening.

But what made the situation worse was how all key parties handled the crisis from a communications perspective. Let me give you specifics:

a) I felt that PRWeek abrogated its responsibilities by pushing the blame onto its vendor Adicio. Granted Adicio is primarily at fault and will win no prizes for improving subscriber relations. But ultimately PRWeek and its parent company, Haymarket Publishing, should have taken responsibility for the situation. Posted on the website was not a message from the publisher of PRWeek, but a notice about a statement from the vendor. As a subscriber, I really did not care who was at fault. I just wanted it fixed. My impression was that the publication was trying to minimize and shift responsibility for the crisis.

b) The sense I had was that no one was in control and no one knew what was going on. I did speak to several individuals at PRWeek. They were all courteous and obviously greatly concerned about the situation. But it was also clear that they did not know what was causing the e-mail deluge and when it would be rectified.

c) The Adicio hotline: The person I spoke to at Adicio was also courteous. But all he could do was apologize. Adicio had no idea how many e-mails had been sent. So even after the situation was “contained” it continued from Tuesday through much of Wednesday.

d) Out of frustration and anger, I sent a bunch of e-mails to Haymarket executives in London. I got no response. That to me was most telling. They obviously wanted nothing to do with the situation.

Of course, it is ironic that a publication which critiques how other companies handle a crisis fell far short of handling its own crisis very well. Serious questions have now been raised about how PRWeek handles not only communications but also confidential information about its subscribers.

I trust that soon PRWeek and Haymarket Publishing will provide more information about what happened, what steps are being taken to protect subscriber information and what actions will be taken to ensure that a similar situation does not occur in the future. That is the least subscribers should expect from a publisher.


John Abrams

Skillman, NJ

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