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  • 1. Crisis Communications November 21, 2006
  • 2. What is a crisis (generally)?
    • A decisive moment; a turning point
      • Typically, one that has a distinct possibility of turning out bad!
  • 3. What’s a PR/communication crisis?
    • A situation that threatens the integrity or reputation of your organization
      • Often because of media or other public communication about a problem or unseen negative event that affects your organization
  • 4. What this means
    • When something bad happens to/involving your organization…
      • e.g., legal dispute, theft, accident, injury, death, scandal, acts of God/nature, information leaks, rumors/lies, human error, clerical error, bad supervision, consumer protest, critical media coverage, lawsuit, industrial espionage, terrorism, employee threats, etc.
  • 5. …You really have (at least) two problems
    • The consequences for the actual victims
    • The consequences for your organization’s reputation or image
      • And as a PR professional, you’re involved (on some level) with solving both
  • 6. A good crisis plan…
    • Addresses both of these problems
      • The actual bad event
        • Which must be contained and corrected (and, ideally, prevented from happening again)
      • The effects of the event on your organization’s reputation
        • And, thus, its relationships with its publics
  • 7. Sudden crises vs. smoldering crises
    • What’s the difference?
    • From a PR professional’s standpoint, why does the difference matter?
  • 8. Classic crises requiring crisis plans
    • Tylenol poisoning
      • Vandals tampered with Tylenol bottles, lacing them with cyanide
    • Exxon Valdez oil spill
      • Oil tanker runs aground; 11 million gallons of oil spread contaminate 600 miles of shoreline
    • Space shuttle explosions: two of them!
    • Mark Foley page scandal
    • Spinach contamination ( E. coli )
  • 9. In a perfect world…
    • Organizations write crisis plans BEFORE any crisis actually erupts
      • So they’re prepared in case something bad ever happens
    • But even with a crisis plan in the files
      • An unanticipated problem can always occur
      • And even anticipated problems (in the abstract) have unanticipated specific details
  • 10. How to respond to a crisis: the broad strokes
    • What virtually all crisis-management consultants (a subcategory of PR professionals agree on)
      • Tell it all
      • Tell it fast
      • Tell the truth
      • Be true to your organization’s values
        • Be consistent in what you stand for
  • 11. Your main goal (perhaps, as PR professional, your only goal):
    • Protect integrity/reputation of your organization
    • So, never try to
      • Lie
      • Deny your involvement
      • Hide your involvement
      • Delay your communication to your publics longer than necessary
        • You need to plan, but you also need to be quickly responsive
  • 12. When crisis erupts, what must you do (although not necessarily in this order)?
    • Respond to (solve) the immediate problem
      • If you can’t eliminate it, then at least reduce it as much as possible
    • Take steps to ensure problem is not repeated
    • Communicate honestly about the problem
      • What happened
      • What you’re doing in response (how you’re solving it)
      • What you’re doing now to prevent its reoccurrence in future
  • 13. What else you must do—either before crisis erupts or immediately afterward
    • Designate a spokesperson
      • Who will talk to the media?
      • Who will talk to employees, customers, and other stakeholders?
    • In most cases, the CEO (president) is appropriate
      • But you might also use back-up communicators
        • experts who can explain technical details if necessary
        • PR person
        • (especially true if CEO is part of problem!)
  • 14. What you might need to do, produce, or prepare
    • Press conferences
    • Speeches
    • News releases
    • More detailed information
      • Information sheets, brochures, drawings
  • 15. Your crisis plan must indicate
    • Facts about the crisis itself
      • What the problem is
      • How it’s being solved
      • Who is solving it
  • 16. Your crisis plan must communicate your communication issues
    • Your communicator(s )
    • Your key message points
      • What your communicators(s) will communicate
        • What happened
        • What you’re doing about it right now (short-term actions)
        • What public(s) need to know or do right now
          • How you want people to respond
        • What will change in the future (long-term actions)
    • How/when all of this will be communicated
      • which tools/media; in which order
  • 17. What a top-notch crisis plan will also include
    • Ways to turn the crisis into an opportunity
      • How can you turn what is undeniably negative into something positive?
        • What’s the silver lining to your cloud?
          • Not spin! What’s the real silver lining?
      • How can you communicate the “good news” in the midst of your “bad news” communication?
  • 18. Some good things that can come out of crises
    • Long-present (but long-ignored) problems can be addressed
    • An organization can change
      • Its product
      • Its people
      • Its way of doing business
    • Heroes can emerge
  • 19. One specific tool you MUST use for this exercise
    • A press conference
    • One or more of your team members will deliver a statement to the press
      • And will respond to questions from the press
    • Who is the press today?
      • Your classmates on the other team
      • Me
  • 20. Tips about your communication content (what you’re saying)
    • Don’t be vague—do be specific
    • Don’t say “no comment” to questions from the press
  • 21. What happens now?
    • Divide into teams
    • Review your scenario
    • Take 10 minutes to prepare your plan
    • Hold a 5-minute press conference
    • After the press conference, hand in your plan outline
      • Which you may wish to revise after your press conference!

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