What we can learn from Ambien’s brilliant response to a public slur

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When companies get it right, the lesson is even more powerful for the rest of us as we grapple with the implications of the new rules of crisis management for our own digital-age response planning.


This was the wonderful elegant, simple and effective tweet published by Sanofi, the manufacturer of Ambien, after Roseanne Barr had defending herself against accusations that had been racist in her own tweets by saying: “It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting.”

It was also a timely reminder of one of the new rules of crisis management – THE SOUNDBITE IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT.

The highly experienced crisis counselor James Donnelly, SVP for Crisis Management at the leading global agency, Ketchum, explained the increased importance of the soundbite in our recently published eBook, ‘The New Rules of Crisis Management’:

You can blame the sensationalism of today’s mainstream media or the distracted public’s inability to read beyond the first paragraph of a breaking story. Either way – capturing your side of the story concisely and in a compelling way has never been more important. If you truly succeed in providing an effective sound bite, you have a decent chance of whetting the public’s appetite for more information on your side of the story.”

“Racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication”, is an inspired soundbite.

It brought to mind the clever defense mounted by Nordstrom in early 2017 when it was one of the early targets of a vitriolic tweet by the, then newly inaugurated, President, Donald Trump, after his daughter’s fashion line was dropped by the high-end chain store:


Nordstrom’s responses were quick, brief and very consistent and always focused on the words: “We made this decision based on performance.”

The impact of that simple but powerful soundbite was one of the reasons that the Washington Post declared that Nordstrom “broke the curse of the Trump tweet”.

After a slight dip immediately following the President’s tweet, two hours later the retailer’s stock price was higher than it had been before.

Ambien and Nordstrom underline to us all just how powerful an effective soundbite is in a crisis response.