Of Child Porn and Men: U-M Hospital has double-whammy crisis

Not every organization can control what its employees do. There’s crises that involve the actions of a sole person, and there’s crises that involve the actions (or lack thereof) of the organization.

Then there’s the crisis at the University of Michigan hospital.

Last May, a resident physician at U-M hospital found a thumb drive left in an employee lobby computer. She wanted to make sure to return it to whichever co-worker it belonged to, so she clicked through folders to find whose it might have been. Instead of finding a name, she found graphic images of nude children.

Stephen Jensen

Stephen Jensen, also a resident physician, was found (six months later) to have child porn not only on his left-behind thumb drive, but also at this house and on his computer. Read the details here:

U-M resident physician had child porn at hospital and home, police say

Enter crisis one: A U-M hospital physician (who is also in pediatrics, but police say there’s no foul play there) is charged with having copious amounts of child pornography.
It doesn’t end there, however. The original report, which was submitted by the resident physician who found the flash drive in May, was swept under the rug within a week. She was told there wasn’t enough evidence to continue with an investigation, and the hospital DID NOT notify police.

Jensen continued to see patients, including children, for over six months.

Read the below article to get a sense of what exactly happened:

University of Michigan officials didn’t report child porn to police for 6 months

Check out a TV report from WXYZ Detroit here. (Having trouble embedding the video!)

So, we have a physician accused of having child pornography, which went six months without being exposed, then the hospital finally reports the claim to police. And it’s still not over.

Enter crisis two: The six-month lapse in reporting the issue to police.

It was later reported, after the hospital released the time frame of the events, that over ten people, including administrators and a regent, knew about the thumb drive’s images and who was logged in at the time (Jensen).

Please read the timeline: http://www.annarbor.com/news/crime/timeline/

Also see the administration’s reaction to the six-month time lapse:

University of Michigan regent calls six-month lapse in reporting child porn ‘extraordinarily disappointing’

U-M Health System CEO calls delay in reporting child porn ‘painful moment in our history’

As if this wasn’t enough bad news for the hospital, there was another report about the internal confusion with security and their relationship with police officials. Security officers were identifying themselves as law enforcement and even routing 911 calls to their own offices, not to an outside agency.

Security or police? Unclear role at University of Michigan hospital contributed to child porn reporting delay

Here is where you, as one of the PR practitioners for U-M hospital, must step in. There’s two major things to consider: the crisis of having a pediatric physician found with child pornography, and the lack of urgency on the administration’s side with reporting coupled with the security debacle.

How can you regain the trust of the citizens of Ann Arbor, and the nation, after this ordeal?

Did hospital administration seem transparent?

Were there any prodromes for either crisis? If so, what could they have done to prevent this?

What changes could be made to have a more clear role of hospital security and how they interact with police?

How do you think the U-M hospital admin SHOULD have acted? Was there anything you think they did correctly?


Is Apple Going Rotten?

For our crisis discussion, we chose to look at the crisis Apple is having from the unsafe working conditions at its factories in China.

Lately, Apple has received negative press for the working conditions at its Foxconn factory.  Workers allegedly only make pennies a hour, work extremely long hours and perform the same tasks thousands of times over and over.

Here is a video of an interview with one of the workers who discusses what it’s like to work for Foxconn:

Working conditions have been so harsh that they are thought to be the cause of several reported employee suicides.  With the revelation of these harsh conditions, Apple has come under fire.  Click here for an article from the New York Times that exposed the issue.

In 2005, Apple executives made a code of conduct for their suppliers. This code was supposed to prevent this kind of unethical treatment of employees from happening at any factory that worked for them.  The New York Times article pointed out that although Apple’s own annual audits of the Chinese factories showed that the code was being violated, the company seemed to ignore the reports.  What type of position does this put Apple’s PR team in?  Can the PR team do anything to save the image of this company who has broken its own code of ethics?  Click here for an interesting look at Apple’s recent audits.

Although this crisis has been linked specifically to Apple, Foxconn also makes electronics for other companies.  Is it fair that Apple is being solely targeted by the press?  Also, these revelations have brought out another broader issue—overall working conditions in China.  Should Apple have to defend itself for a matter that may be a cultural or national issue in China?  Or should they take a stand against this unethical treatment of employees, considering they are one of the most influential companies in the world? 

Protests of Apple have accelerated recently and it’s obvious that this story isn’t going to fade away in the press.  Protesters have started to hold demonstrations in front of Apple stores and offices.  Protesting hackers have even hacked into Foxconn’s network and caused havoc for the Apple supplier.  These protesters want people to ask themselves this question:  Would you still buy your smart phone or tablet if you knew the conditions in which it was made?  What can the PR team at Apple do to respond to the protesters?  Is there anything they can do?

photo courtesy of lovefortech.com

As of yet, Apple has not formally responded to this imminent crisis.  As we have learned, it is imperative for companies to make a statement about a crisis, as staying silent usually implies some sort of guilt.  As you can see here, Apple has done things differently when it handled crises in the past.  Do you think Apple can continue to deal with crises in this unique fashion, or is this going to come back to bite them sooner or later?

So far, the only “response” has come in the form of a leaked email from Apple CEO Tim Cook. Here is the link to the leaked email.  Do you think this email was leaked intentionally? Is this response enough, or should Apple have made a more definitive public statement?
It appears that the majority of news coverage is attacking Apple.  Although the coverage should probably be targeting the entire electronics/smartphone industry, Apple’s lack of a response seems to be adding fuel to the crisis fire.  Do you agree or disagree?  Also, if you were a PR practitioner for Apple, what type of response would you have made?  Do you agree with how they have handled it so far?

Sam Plymale and Laura Taylor

Pfizer’s Birth Control Recall

We decided to do our analysis on the current crisis in the media regarding the recent recall of Pfizer’s birth control pills.

Here is some background information on the company:

Pfizer’s has been the dominant force in the pharmaceutical business for several years now. Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol are not their only products but Pfizer has created every product that ranges from Advil to Viagra, creating over 40 products, which distributes to over 10 countries. Current CEO Ian Read has been CEO for less than 3 years currently but has been with the company for over 30 years. Pfizer’s success has been dominant in many way’s creating several mergers, which led to their billion dollar status, along with the success with each of their divisions, which include Human Health and Animal Health divisions.

Please read the following press release that was issued on Pfizer’s website:


Please also watch the following video from the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall:


Please watch this video on coverage of the story: http://www.newschannel5.com/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?ClipID1=6702763&h1=Pfizer%20recalls%201M%20birth%20control%20packs%20after%20mix-up&vt1=v&at1=News%20-%20AP-National&d1=91667&LaunchPageAdTag=News%20-%20AP-National&activePane=info&rnd=96416775

Finally, please watch this video which briefly talks about the last recall: http://www.newsy.com/videos/pfizer-recalls-more-than-one-million-birth-control-packs/

By reading and watching the above links you should get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. Pfizer came to the conclusion that there were 30 packs of birth control pills that received an inaccurate count and as a result of that there were one million packs that were removed from shelves. Pfizer also notified the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The media and news were notified and the word spread so that the public was aware. They recommended that women who have been using these pills should consult with their physician and begin using a non-hormonal barrier method immediately. Women were also advised to return the product immediately. Chief Medical Officer, Freda Lewis-Hall, did a video that explained the mix up and gave advice on how it should be handled. Medical experts are saying that this incident should remind woman how imperative it is to keep up with the your birth control pills and to make sure they are taking the right one’s on the right days. It seems as if there were not any big apology or anything that was said to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again, Pfizer is just giving the impression that it was a mistake and it won’t happen again. The emphasis is mainly on the recall and seeing a physician if the pills were used

Pfizer made comments like:

“Because of our high quality standards”

“Patients are our first priority & here at Pfizer we’re committed to serving quality medicines”

“We understand that this news can be very concerning and confusing for any women who take birth control pills”

“We share your concerns”

“Want to provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information”

All of these statements make Pfizer sound like they really care about their customers and a company to count on but if you compare the video to the articles and press release, you might have noticed a different fact that jumps out at us. Dr. Lewis-Hall states in the video that “if you are a women who’s been taking Lo/Overal – 28 or Lo/Ovral-28 tablets or generic Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol tablets over that last several months, to please consult with your physician.” This says that they don’t know exactly when this started but they do know, as stated in the news release, video and articles that it was because of a visual inspection and mechanical error. So because a human visually inspected incorrectly or have the machine checked effectively this error occurred. In the last video, you hear about another birth control recall that happened in September. Qualitest Pharmaceuticals recalled 1.4 million birth control pills due to a different packaging error. Pfizer just conducted that one video from Dr. Lewis-Hall and the Press Release.

In your opinion, how does all of this information on this situation make Pfizer look? By using the five stages of a crisis, please explain what you believe Pfizer did right or wrong. Do you think they should of addressed the public more than just a press release and statement on the issue? Do you believe that Pfizer owes women who were using this product an apology? If so, what else could they have done or said? What do you think the outcome of this recall will be on the products itself? If you were the PR Professional would you do anything different? If so, what?


Week 4 Post – Tylenol Case Study

Chapter 7 (while I know it’s not assigned yet) consits of two “text-book” crisis. Please read the Tylenol Murders. We’ve already discussed this case in class so now let’s discuss it here.

The Tylenol case is considered a landmark case in crisis communication. The PR Director, Robert Kniffen, is seen as handling the case with professionalism and is often benchmarked as an expert.

From Chapters 1-6 apply what you have leared thus far. Analyze the case, identify the stages of crisis communication, tell me about how Johnson and Johnson handled internal, external, and media communications. Also, was there anything that you read in this case study that surprised you. If so what was it and why?