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Crisis Management Expert Weighs in On Fashion Square's Response

November 28, 2012

Parents say the attempted child abduction at Fashion Square is a good lesson for shoppers with little ones.

"Just be more cautious and aware and what's going on in your surroundings," says Felicia Ansari.

But according to crisis management experts, it's also a lesson in public relations with Fashion Square being the example of what not to do in the face of crisis. Senior Associate Dean of Darden, Erika James, offers her analysis on what a business should do.

"First and foremost, businesses have to be concerned with the safety and security of their customers. So I know the first inclination is to retreat and deny or pretend as if this didn't happen but what they need to do is use the public to their advantage, to use the public to get information to spread the word, to help them design new safety precautions moving forward."

So far Fashion Square and its parent company, Simon Property Group, have largely ignored the incident, even deleting negative comments from the mall's Facebook page.

"Social media can be their friend if they use it properly and to deny this is happening only makes matters worse in the eyes of the public," warns James.

The recently released photo of the attempted abduction suspect is nowhere to be found on the mall's Facebook page. Amid posts about gift cards and Santa visits, users have commented on the mall's lack of transparency.

One customer shares her fear of bringing her kids to see Santa until more details about new security measures are released. Experts say the communication needs to be much better.

James' suggests being upfront would have been a better course of action.

"First of all, it's is being candid in the situation, acknowledge if there were gaps in security procedures, be very clear about what they plan to do differently moving forward and showing demonstrated actions of what is happening in the near and long term."

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