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2016 Crisis Response Rankings: Research Sizes Up the Worst- and Best-Handled Crises of the Year

controlling the public message, Crisis communications, crisis handling, crisis response, CrisisResponsePro, dishonest crisis response, Gretchen Carlson, Jim Haggerty, Marketing, Pr, PR crisis, Public relations, Wells Fargo crisisWells Fargo Leads “Worst” List, Fox’s Carlson’s Harassment Suit Tops “Best”

Crisis and litigation communications portal CrisisResponsePro has released its second-annual list of the worst- and best-handled crisis communications responses.

“Without a doubt, Wells Fargo’s handling of its fake-accounts crisis takes the prize as the worst of 2016—just botched from beginning to end,” said Jim Haggerty, founder and CEO of CrisisResponsePro, in a news release. “On the other hand, Gretchen Carlson’s litigation communications surrounding her lawsuit against Roger Ailes was a textbook example of effectively controlling the public message during litigation.”


  1. Wells Fargo (fake-accounts scandal)—Wells Fargo couldn’t have handled the crisis any worse than it did: It didn’t at first take the problem seriously enough, it couldn’t get its story straight, and its response was perceived as dishonest. Plus, no heads rolled until CEO John Stumpf finally resigned.
  2. Samsung (Galaxy Note7 recall)—Samsung’s communication was almost as pathetic as the substance of the situation. While Samsung was rightly lauded for pulling the exploding phone from the market, its lax communication effort was widely, and just as rightly, criticized.
  3. Theranos (regulatory scandal)—Though they began last year, Theranos’s problems only worsened and its defiant, belligerent tone (mostly) continued. Its infrequent attempts at contrition have rung false. And now the world is caving in all around it.
  4. Ryan Lochte (Rio Olympics incident)—After getting caught fibbing about being robbed at gunpoint, Ryan Lochte went on to concoct one of the worst apologies of the year: It took him five days, he did it on Instagram, he never actually owned up to his misdeed, and he tried to portray himself as a victim.
  5. Mylan (pricing controversy)—Mylan failed in its attempts to quell the anger over its EpiPen price hikes. It blamed a broken healthcare system. It offered financial assistance that was viewed as a PR move. The CEO’s attempts at justification while testifying before Congress were met with bipartisan skepticism.


  1. Gretchen Carlson (sex-harassment lawsuit)—In her suit against Fox News’s Roger Ailes, Gretchen Carlson’s litigation communications were aggressive and impressive. Instead of ignoring the court of public opinion, she and her team embraced it and used it to their advantage. She even got Fox to apologize to her—a lawsuit-settlement rarity.
  2. Apple (San Bernardino shootings)—The same day a court ordered Apple to help the government hack into an iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters, CEO Tim Cook released a message explaining why it would refuse to do so—while still showing respect for the investigation and victims.
  3. Spectra Energy (pipeline explosion)—After an explosion at one of its pipelines in Pennsylvania, Spectra Energy responded with an almost perfect example of how to communicate an event or accident crisis. The company consistently updated its stakeholders and hit (almost) all the right notes. It expressed real sympathy for victims and thanked first responders.
  4. Maria Sharapova (failed drug test)—Instead of waiting for the International Tennis Federation to announce the results of her drug test, Maria Sharapova held a press conference and didn’t rely on a lawyer to do her talking. She admitted she had tested positive. Some observers called it a “textbook apology.”
  5. Harvard University (men’s soccer team)—After it was revealed that its men’s soccer team had compiled a lewd report rating the sex appeal of women’s soccer team players, Harvard suspended the men’s team, ending its season, even though it led the Ivy League. The school communicated its outrage with many statements.

Read the firm’s post for more info here.

Source: CrisisResponsePro; edited by Richard Carufel

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