Crisis Communication Wins and Fails | Viral In Nature Social Media Agency

Image Credit TheRebel.Media

Napoleon once said "Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets"  If he were alive today, what do you think he would say about pretty much every Canadian Journalists and beyond being united against  the Alberta NDP's action of banning TheRebel.Media's reporters from the legislature?  You see even in the 1700's Politicians understood the power of the press, an understanding that was not understood by Rachel Notley and her fellow MLA's.

Just to recap, here's the sequence of event that transpired as reported on
On January 29th, our Calgary reporter, Holly Nicholas, attended a Government of Alberta briefing about the oil royalty review. Holly checked in with the civil servants running the event, said she was with The Rebel, showed her ID and went in. As usual. But about 90 minutes later, one of Notley’s staff heard Holly was in the briefing. So the premier’s office sent someone in to find her, and kick her out, simply because she was with The Rebel.
Sheila Gunn Reid, our Alberta bureau chief, was also at the royalty review, standing with other journalists, waiting for the press conference. Same thing: when Notley's people heard she was there, they kicked her out too.
These were government events. Non-partisan by nature. Places journalists have every right to be.
On February 3rd, the NDP blacklist went to a whole new level.
Justin Trudeau and Notley had a press conference at the Legislature. Sheila showed up, as she has before. But this time she was told by security she was on a "no go" list – they actually said that. When she asked for an explanation, they called the head of security who ordered her removed -- all while Sheila had her camera rolling Security asked Sheila for “accreditation”. But that’s a bogus excuse. We have reported from the Legislature before. And just a day earlier we had checked with the president of the Legislature press gallery, Darcy Henton, who confirmed there is no such thing as accreditation to cover the government of the day, in the building that houses our democracy. Any working journalist is allowed in. Rachel Notley can't pick her favourites here. The Legislature is not her private property. It’s owned by the people, not by the NDP. She's not Hugo Chavez, but she's doing her best impersonation. We weren't given a real explanation for why we were not allowed to do our jobs like everyone else in the media. We were given a cheap lie. So we had a senior lawyer in Alberta, Fred Kozak, write a calm, polite letter to the Premier’s office, describing what happened and asking the government to confirm it wouldn’t happen again. We decided to give them a week to reply – a chance to do the right thing. You can see his full letter here. Well, on Friday, we heard back – from a lawyer with the Department of Justice! It was a two-line letter. Notley's digging in her heels. Reporters at The Rebel -- and anyone even “connected” with us -- are “not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events.” You can see the letter here.

Just to give you a little bit of my background, before starting this social media agency I spent a decade in the newspaper business in the Sales and Management side that included a role as Publisher of The Valley Sentinel Newspaper.  Perhaps it is because of this role that I may feel a little more passionate of our Freedom of the Press rights as Canadians.  Freedom of the Press is the cornerstone of Democracy.  It's what separates Canada from countries like North Korea and Saudi Arabia where they do not have the same freedoms.  In those countries the media does not hold the ruling Government to acts of injustice or corruption.  Those countries are not nations for the people, but instead are nations for an elite few.  Whether you agree with what The Rebel reports on or not (and many don't), when we give up those freedoms we are condemning ourselves to the same fate.

Some of the arguments I have heard some people saying are as follows:

1. These people never went to J School (Journalism School) - What many people may not know is that there are many well respected Journalists he didn't either.  At my newspaper the only person on staff that did attend J School was the Editor.  We were not the exception, but rather the norm.  Those Journalists at The Rebel have just as much qualifications as many others that have the right to be there.

2. TheRebel.Media is just an online blog - For those that having been paying attention, traditional news agencies are becoming more and more an online news source and less of a printed or television medium only.

3. Ezra Levant has been sued for libel and shouldn't be allowed on that basis - If we made a rule that any news agency that has ever been sued should be denied access, then not only would that eliminate pretty much every major news agencies in Canada, it would also be a declaration of war on those that haven't.

4. TheRebel.Media is slanted right wing journalism - You would be correct, they are slanted.  Just like The Tyee and the Rabble, both of whom are Accredited Press with the Federal Legislature.  They are protected under Freedom of the Press and should always be.  The Supreme Court Of Canada has ruled that what The Rebel, and others like him, enjoy constitutional protection.

Now for, what I'm sure was, the unintended consequence of the NDP's decision.  The Rebel Media celebrated their one year anniversary yesterday and judging by the chain of events they could have easily put this story out yesterday, but I'm sure the story was held until Tuesday because by making them a martyr this is truly the best gift they could have ever received.  I watched their show last night as Ezra was grinning from ear to ear.  He could hardly contain his glee.  In the last 24 hours they have gained more exposure than ever.  They have united pretty much every Journalist across the country behind them in upholding the rights of our Freedom Of The Press.  Even the CBC, who The Rebel has hammered countless times, has ran a story on them.  Social media has been overwhelmed opinions, it has been trending as the top spot on Facebook and Twitter.  A common phrase you hear is 'I don't like The Rebel but I support them on this'., a big critic and nemesis of Ezra Levant, created this article on 'Ten Reasons The Notley Government Is Really Stupid To Bar Ezra And The Rebel' and he couldn't be more bang on in his reasoning.

This has really backfired on the Alberta Government in epic proportions and has really left them only one choice, and that is to back down and reinstate their Reporters as Accredited Press.  But will they do it?  They have stood firm against overwhelming criticism before on other unpopular bills, so it will remain to be seen.  But if any good comes out of this, I can only hope that this will end up being served as a warning to future Politicians who try and take away some of the most basic freedoms Canadians enjoy.

Shawn Alain

President, Viral In Nature


Update: The NDP Government admits they made a mistake.

An Irate Comcast subscriber turns Raspberry Pi into a watchdog for slow Internet speeds and uses Twitter to let them know.

Washington, DC Reddit user and Comcast customer, AlekseyP, was frustrated with low internet speeds and instead of wasting time calling up Comcast over the issue, he is using the power of Raspberry Pi to complain with auto tweets to Comcast with the Twitter handle @A_Comcast_User.

Every hour, AlekseyP’s Raspberry Pi runs Internet speed tests and then stores that data. If his Internet speed drops below 50 megabits per second, the Pi tweets at Comcast about the slow speeds. AlekseyP says he pays for 150mbps down and 10mbps up.  "I set up my Raspberry Pi to automatically tweet at Comcast Xfinity whenever my internet speeds drop significantly below what I pay for" 

It's automated and he doesn't tell Comcast what subscriber he is so he doesn't get singled out. Take note businesses, automated public customer complaints over social media is becoming the new norm.

City of Calgary fires Transit driver who refused to operate Pride bus. City cites nazi-related Facebook posts by bus driver.


See the termination letter issued to Calgary's anti-Pride bus driver.

Posted by The Calgary Sun on Friday, September 11, 2015

#ViralInNature - Does your business have an employee social media policy? You should because if you don't then your business may be liable when you fire an employee for these reasons. An Employee Social Media Policy is there to let employees know that, yes they can post about your business and their job on their personal social media and that your business should actually encourage them too because they are some of your biggest fans! But a policy will also let employees know that they are responsible for what they post even when they're not on duty.

We have an Employee Social Media Policy Template available free for you to download here.

When a story came out on Global News that involved our client, Symons Valley Ranch, it painted them in a negative light.  Watch the video below and form your own opinion.


An Airdrie couple getting married on Saturday say it’s not the wedding they planned, and is warning others after they...

Posted by Global Calgary on Friday, August 21, 2015

The story was being told and they needed to be a part of it.  We put together this response below, read it and see if your opinion has changed.


In response to the story on Global News, we want to make some important clarifications. Annise Toleikis has never been...

Posted by Symons Valley Ranch on Saturday, August 22, 2015

This reinforces what I have said over and over again and that is the conversation is going to happen with or without you so it's better that you're a part of it.  The public sentiment changed dramatically in a positive nature towards our client.  Also, having weddings at their venue was actually something new they were offering and the result was quite a few new bookings!  There couldn't have been a better resolution to this situation.

impactteam ashleymadisonIf you haven't heard already, the Ashley Madison Database has been hacked and now all it's members names, emails, addresses, sexual preferences, photos, private messages and credit card info are now on display for the world to see.  

Here's the Ashley Madison backstory:

In mid-July, Krebs first reported that Ashley Madison had been hacked by Team Impact.  Team Impact, an anonymous group of computer hackers, demanded that Ashley Madison permanently delete their website. 

“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

They were also slowly releasing bits of data that confirmed they weren't bluffing.  And as of August 19, 2015 they have now posted a message saying time's up and have released almost 10 gb of data of the 37 million users on Ashley Madison.  The media has been in a full frenzy reporting the story and social media has been buzzing.

Here's how Ashley Madison handled the online crisis:

Since the hack, Ashley Madison has had little information coming from them.  They have refused interviews, sent take down notices to Twitter.  

On July 20, 2015 they released a statement on their Facebook page



And then again on August 18, 2015




Post Mortem Analysis

Well this situation is still ongoing and I suspect the final story will also include many high profile Celebrities and Politicians.  But Ashley Madison has missed the most critical opportunities for online crisis communication.  They have for the most part taken the "Head in the sand" Ostrich approach.  The conversation is going on all around them and if there's one thing you've heard me say over and over again it's that "The conversation is going to happen with or without you so it's better that you're a part of it." 

Cease and Desist letters no longer work in this digital age if you're trying to stomp out a story, it has the opposite effect of pouring gasoline in the fire.

There was one glimmer of hope they did do, however, and that was releasing the statement that led back to a blog on their website with the comments enabled.  This gave people an outlet to vent their frustration in a place Ashley Madison had control of instead of their personal social media profiles.  This now gives people an outlet to vent their frustration rather than on their personal social media profiles.  It also allows the business to take control of the story and fix the facts and rumours that may be circulating.  Ashley Madison should have done much more to promote and direct the conversation to these blogs.

In one of the blogs they write "Contrary to current media reports, and based on accusations posted online by a cyber criminal, the “paid-delete” option offered by does in fact remove all information related to a member’s profile and communications activity. The process involves a hard-delete of a requesting user’s profile, including the removal of posted pictures and all messages sent to other system users’ email boxes. This option was developed due to specific member requests for just such a service, and designed based on their feedback."  We now know this to be untrue.  During a crisis you must be truthful if you're going to gain any credibility back.

They should have also not only taken more interview requests, but seeked them out.

Conclusion, they should have been a part of the conversation.  Now it remains to be seen if they will continue to exist.

On a more personal note, you could say these victims reaped what they sowed, but there will also be lots of innocent victims here.  Those hackers may think they are wearing the white hat but they are indirectly responsible for broken marriages which means there will be kids growing up with two sets of parents, I also see an increase in domestic violence and even suicides.  I'm not condoning cheating spouses, but recognizing there will be innocent victims.


New Calgary-Bow MLA’s marijuana, middle finger photos come under ‘attack’

Newly elected Alberta NDP MLA Deborah Drever has since unpublished all her social media accounts. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the conversation is going to happen with or without you so it's better that you're a part of it. You should also have a reputation management plan in place long before you need it.  Not trying to pick on Drever because she probably wasn't expecting to win, the blame actually falls on the NDP who as a whole should have step by step plan for many of these different scenarios.  At #ViralInNature we create a step by step plan, prepare and train your Crisis Communication Team so you don't fall into the common trap of crisis paralysis where you do nothing but unpublish your platforms.

...but don't feel bad NDP for not having one, the PC's didn't have one either.


UPDATE: May 7, 2015

Deborah Drever has addressed the controversy in this Calgary Herald article.  Have a read through, here's the positive and negative take-aways for Reputation Management:


  • You can tell that this interview is genuine and not polished by their communications department.  This speaks much more to the public.


  • "I guess I have to lay low for a while," in Public life that is not an option.  You can't hide from controversy. 
  • "It looks like there are a lot of angry people out there, and they're attacking all the younger candidates." Never blame your followers.  There is no way you can win in the public court if you're blaming the jury.
  • Social media accounts are offline.  You would obviously want to delete the offending photos but just like I said above, the conversation is going to happen with or without you so it's better that you're a part of it.

Personal Opinion

Reputation Management criticism aside, this is a young candidate that probably never expected to win and some of the photos above are five years old.  To those who are over the age of 30, just imagine what it would be like if when you were growing up everyone carried a camera with instant access to the internet like it is nowadays?  You'd probably have some less than ideal photos of you floating around in cyberspace as well.  So I say we should give her, and the rest of the first time NDP Politicians a break...this time.  But learn from your mistakes.  The PC's didn't and the voting public fired them.


rxamkmvfvmzvxjgrprmtAt the time of this writing, Islamic Terrorists ISIS is currently holding two Japanese hostages demanding that Japan pay 200 million dollars and they will release them. It's a very serious situation in which once again ISIS is using social media as a tool to threaten, scare and intimidate. Well the Japanese people are fighting back with social media and Photoshopped pictures. Users are tweeting pictures with the hashtag #ISISクソコラグランプリ (meaning "ISIS Crappy Photoshop Grand Prix") putting Islamic State terrorists in odd positions or photoshopping the Japanese hostages out of pictures, replacing them with anime or popular fantasy characters.

And it looks like they are getting under the skin of some ISIS groups as they have tweeted back some of these images


Not to make light of a serious situation where to people may lose their life, but for the Japanese people's resolve to fight back against oppression, we're putting this in the win category. Here's a few more that we find just to good not to share:






In case you hadn't heard, the Prime Minister of Turkey has blocked Twitter in the country just days before their countries election. Just another Dictator trying to block the voice of his people. So what does Twitter do? Hire some high priced lawyer to face their Government in international court? No, expensive, time consuming and probably wouldn't go any where anyways. Instead with just a few keystrokes, less than 140 characters, Twitter puts out a tweet on how to get around the Governments ban rendering it totally useless.


Viral In Nature Inc. is an award winning Social Media and Reputation Management firm located in Calgary, Alberta. We offer award winning social media management, consulting and training. Capturing the power of social media for the benefit of our clients.

EggsOasis in Calgary Social Media CrisisEggsOasis, a restaurant in Calgary, is experiencing a crisis communication.

As the story goes, the owner of EggsOasis hired a lady named Kathryn Dart with Down Syndrome through the Progressive Alternative Society of Calgary (PASC). She was supposed to work as a dishwasher with the help of an assistant but Dart preferred to work at the front of the restaurant instead of the back. When things didn't work out so well working in the front, the owner asked Dart's assistant if she could assist her in the front, but she refused.

Now here's where the stories differ. The owners says he offered Dart a position at a different, less busy location but two teenagers, and her Mother say she was fired. The teenagers took to Facebook and in short time had over 6000 shares of a post saying to boycott EggsOasis.


EggsOasis response was to agree to be interviewed by the Calgary Sun for an article as well as create a post on their Facebook page (below).



Calgary Social Media CrisisYou'll notice one comment in there by Dart's Mother refuting the claims of EggsOasis.

What EggsOasis did wrong:

  • According to their Facebook post, they may have had a delayed response (not sure of the date of the actual incident)
  • EggsOasis may or may not be telling us all the facts. It's important to be brutally honest in these situations.

What they did right:

  • They responded and addressed the crisis head on by agreeing to an interview in a Sun article as well as a Facebook posting with comments that allow for a discussion to happen. The conversation is going to happen with or without you so it's better that you are a part of that conversation rather than letting someone else tell the story for you. This is a tactic that so many businesses are afraid to do in these instances.

There is no doubt that any Mother would be protective of their Daughter and get angry when she's hurt by someone else, there's also the possibility that EggsOasis has fudged the facts to favour their position. As a business owner, it doesn't matter who's right or wrong, what matters is who's right or wrong in the court of public opinion. Initially public opinion was bad but it looks like that has now changed to have some supporters for EggsOasis. I believe they may have had professional help in managing this crisis. And even though I'm sure they lost some business through this bad situation, it is for their response and openness that I'm putting this in the social media win category.


Viral In Nature Inc. is an award winning Social Media and Reputation Management firm located in Calgary, Alberta. We offer award winning social media management, consulting and training. Capturing the power of social media for the benefit of our clients.

Making anything go viral on social media can be a daunting task. Many have tried, most have failed. But every once in a while, with a well laid out plan, hard work, timing and a lot of luck, a brand hits one out of the park. WestJet, however, makes it look easy in this video that almost brings tears of joy to your eyes. I've said this before that in the airline industry there are some companies that do some of the best social media in the world, WestJet is one of them.


Blog by Viral In Nature Inc. President, Shawn Alain


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