Crisis communications, uSphere-style

Just as I was about to log off for the evening Tuesday, this Twitter post from uSphere CEO Dave Van de Walle flashed across my screen:

@usphere issues apology, pulls all ads –

I had no idea what that statement meant, so I clicked on the uSphere blog to read. (uSphere, by the way, is a service designed to help students in their college admissions search.) According to Dave’s post, one of the firm’s advertising partners had exposed visitors to the uSphere site to pornographic ads. Dave didn’t go into detail, but was quick to apologize for the “egregious error by one of our advertising partners” and added that “we’ll shoulder the blame, as it’s our site and our partners should have been chosen more carefully. Especially on a site that serves students.”

The entire blog post is also now on uSphere’s homepage.

Dave did the right thing by taking quick action to communicate the situation to those who use his service. That’s rule No. 1 in crisis communications: get your story out quickly and completely, before the rumor mill has a chance to act. And in the online world, the rumor mill works quickly and can spread bad news far and wide. (Just think back to how quickly Brad J. Ward and a few interested bloggers were able to break and spread the news of Facebookgate a few weeks ago.)

But Dave needs to update his blog post to make it clear that he has indeed pulled all the offending ads, as his Twitter post claims. After reading the blog post, I didn’t see anything explicitly stating that the offending ads were no longer a part of the uSphere site. I know from experience that in our rush to get the word out, sometimes we omit important pieces of information. But Dave needs to edit his post to include that important piece of information.

Other than that critique, I think Dave and uSphere did an admirable job in managing a potential crisis.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

One thought on “Crisis communications, uSphere-style”

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Dave from uSphere here. Great points and I’m glad you raised them…

    We’ve actually begun the process of taking down ALL of the ad code on our network. It might take some time, but we’ll get there.

    So we’re going beyond just the offending ad partner and actually removing Google ads and Commission Junction ads from our site, too. The only stuff you’ll see will be sponsored content from colleges/universities that want us to help us connect them. (Our U of the Day, for instance, whose links often come from schools that are looking for very niche-oriented schools or programs.)

    Thanks again, though, for the support and the kind words on your site. I’m still sick to my stomach to think that one person got shown an offensive ad: that’s one too many.


    Dave Van de Walle
    uSphere, Inc.

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