Racial profiling cases can create public relations nightmare

ST. LOUIS - Two separate cases of alleged racial profiling are the latest examples of employees putting their company executives in a communications crisis mode.   One involved a Schnuck’s grocery store the other involved the Nordstrom Rack in Brentwood.

Public relations expert Mack Bradley is the President of StandPoint said it’s critical for companies to get their message out as soon as possible.

“A good rule of thumb is to address things as quickly as you can but no quicker,” said Bradley.

He says the challenge for the company is knowing all the facts quickly.  Bradley adds the most effective response is one that’s truthful.  He says if a company makes a promise to make changes they need to follow through or else they will likely face an even bigger public relations disaster.

Training is a big part of avoiding a public relations disaster.  Bradley said the days of simply training a worker to operate a cash register are not enough.   He said society does not tolerate discrimination and workers need to understand that.

“In all organizations, workers pick up cultural cues from leadership and from the people that they work with, so training is really important,” said Bradley.

He said he’s not making any generalizations about the companies involved in these latest situations.  Bradley adds that company executives are often torn between speaking out and following legal advice which in many cases is to stay silent.

Bradley said, “It’s always up to an individual organization to decide how they’re going to balance those interests.”

A Statement from Adolphus M. Pruitt, President St. Louis NAACP:

"St. Louis, Mo. –  Mekhi Lee, 19, a freshman at Alabama A&M, DeSmet High School senior Dirone Taylor, and East St. Louis High School senior Eric Rogers met this evening with Blake Nordstrom Co-President of Nordstrom, Geevy S. K. Thomas President of Nordstrom Rack, and Farrell Redwine, Nordstrom’s VP Human Resources at the St. Louis Airport Hilton Hotel.

Both Blake Nordstrom and Geevy Thomas offered apologies on behalf of Nordstrom and praised the young men for how they handled the entire situation. The young men were accompanied with their parents, grandparents, the NAACP and their attorney.

Nordstrom leaders gave an update with respect to their internal investigation; discussed in detail the chain of events that occurred; and shared the next steps for Nordstrom. The young men spoke about how the chain of events have impacted them to-date; questioned Nordstrom leaders with respect to their employees’ actions and training; and entered into a discussion about how Nordstrom could best address these matters in the future, along with suggestions for broader community charitable support.

The meeting concluded with all parties agreeing to a continued dialogue with an emphasis on a common desire to prevent incidents of this nature from happening in the future; and the implementation of the things necessary to achieve such."