Monday, November 05, 2007

Where the Blackwater Defense Falls Flat

I was reading a front-page New York Times story last week called “Blackwater Mounts a Defense With Top Talent” by John Broder and James Risen and, I have to tell you, it really got my dander up.

The opening paragraph said, “Blackwater Worldwide, its reputation in tatters and its lucrative government contracts in jeopardy, is mounting an aggressive legal, political and public relations counterstrike. It has hired a bipartisan stable of big-name Washington lawyers, lobbyists and press advisers.”

So what are all these major consultants contributing to the defense of Blackwater? Not, a whole heck of a lot, as far as I can see.

The very next day, Blackwater’s chairman, Erik D. Prince, testified at his first Congressional hearing. According to the Washington Post, Prince acted as if “the lawmakers were wasting his time.” Reporter Dana Milbank writes:

“How much does Blackwater, recipient of $1 billion in federal contracts, make in profits? ‘We're a private company, and there's a key word there — private,’ Prince answered.

“What about the 2004 crash of a Blackwater plane in Afghanistan, when federal investigators said the pilots acted unprofessionally? ‘Accidents happen,’ Prince explained.

“The lack of prosecution for a drunken Blackwater worker who shot and killed a security guard to an Iraqi vice president? ‘We can't flog him,’ Prince said.

“The high wages for Blackwater security guards? ‘They're not showing up at the job naked,’ Prince reasoned.

“What's more, Prince said, ‘I believe we acted appropriately at all times.’”
Empty and glib responses like these do nothing to polish the company’s tarnished brand. Restoring its reputation takes more than changing the name of its major operating division from Blackwater USA to Blackwater Worldwide and toning down the company’s warlike logo.

To date, no one at Blackwater has ever delivered the facts of the September shootings of 17 Iraqis. What is the defense? Saying “we’re doing what the State Department asks us to do” is not coming clean.

In my opinion, Blackwater is not following the most basic tenet of crisis management: identify the problem, come clean with the facts, apologize and take steps to ensure that it never happens again.

Technorati Tags: Blackwater Worldwide, Erik D. Prince, federal contracts, crisis management, State Department, New York Times, Washington Post, John Broder, James Risen, Dana Milbank, business, communications, public relations


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree. One point you didn't mention is that as Prince exited after his testimony, he took his "name plate"...almost like a souvenir.

The whole testimony and handling of his current PR problem wreaks of the absence of PR practitioner managing Prince's and the company image.

Probably because his smug personality....he doesn't think he needs to manage his PR.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007 9:27:00 PM  

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