Case Studies

Crisis Management

A National Food Recall

When word that the nation’s largest recall of ground beef included meat sold in Whole Foods Market stores, Libba was the face of the company’s communications with the media. In fewer than two hours, she discovered that the meat processing plant involved was no longer a company-­approved vendor, and was able to release a detailed statement to the media. Her delivery of swift, accurate information both improved the tone of the coverage, and also decreased the company’s prominence in the multi­day news story cycle.

A social media storm ­

A viral tale of a breastfeeding mother who was asked to “cover up” while nursing her baby in a Whole Foods Market store caused a nationwide “nurse­in” protest at almost 300 stores. As the crisis evolved, Libba advised that the company publicly own the judgment error, and wholeheartedly embrace any mother who wanted to nurse in any WFM store. She not only communicated this stance with the regional media that covered the story, but also worked with national breastfeeding organizations and related social media communities. She developed a Q&A about the issue for all employees, and helped organize the stores to welcome any nursing mothers who showed up for the protest. Stores provided seating areas, bottled water, snacks, and other amenities to welcome local moms, and many stores went on to declare themselves “breastfeeding friendly” for their shoppers.

An electricity blackout

Combine excessive Texas summer heat with a number of planned maintenance outages at power plants across the state, and you’re looking at possible rolling blackouts. Because LCRA runs the power plants that provide energy to Austin, Libba provided local media with quick primers on power generation and distribution when a blackout threatened the city.

A labor union strike

In 2005, the bus drivers’ labor union called a one­day strike after months of threats to do so. Without the striking drivers, only 18 of 80 routes could be maintained. Libba worked with route planners and the operations team to determine what routes would be available during a strike, and then prepared communications well in advance. When the strike was called at 3:00 a.m. on Sept. 22, messages immediately went out to city leaders, local employers, and the media, containing information about which routes *were* running. Staffers were dispatched to post physical signs at major bus stops to alert passengers and answer questions.

On call 24/7

In addition to running its 80+ bus routes across the city, Capital Metro was often called on during emergencies, and Libba managed the media inquiries that came with them. If an apartment building had to be evacuated in cold weather, Capital Metro would send heated buses to keep everyone warm until the crisis was over. Capital Metro also provided buses to take people from overcrowded homeless shelters to area churches during a freeze. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, scores of bus drivers volunteered to drive buses full of supplies to the region to help out. All these events would attract media attention, and Libba answered the calls, day or night, on behalf of Capital Metro.