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Public Relations During Times Of Crisis

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So what is a crisis anyway? How many kinds of crises are there? What are the best steps to handling a crisis? This presentation will guide you through public relations during times of crisis. [NOTE: …

So what is a crisis anyway? How many kinds of crises are there? What are the best steps to handling a crisis? This presentation will guide you through public relations during times of crisis. [NOTE: Many thanks go to Kami Huyse; her presentation given to the Boys & Girls Club makes up the core of this slide deck.]

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  • Crisis = Danger + Opportunity
  • Types of crisesCrisis communication literature has tackled the categories of crisis a number of ways. Over the years, I have distilled these into three major categories:Meteor crisis—Completely unexpected, a meteor crisis falls from the sky. It’s usually characterized by randomness and senselessness and is viewed as a terrible thing. The organization affected is a victim in a meteor crisis, but nevertheless, confidence in the organization is at risk. Consider the recent shooting in an Omaha shopping mall. This was not the mall’s fault, but people may opt to shop elsewhere after the shooting. How quickly and effectively the organization responds will determine whether it is perceived as complicit or innocent.Predator crisis—In “The Insider,” Russell Crowe portrayed former tobacco executive Jeffrey Wigand, who delivered confidential company documents to “60 Minutes.” I would argue that Wigand did the right thing (others will disagree), but from the company perspective, he was a predator; that is, he was out to cause the company harm. In a predator crisis, the company is hardly a victim—it must have dirty laundry in order for a predator to air it. Other kinds of predator crises include behind-the-scenes disputes that go public, new regulations that expose safety or other shortcomings, and litigation that reveal unsavory business practices (like, for instance, an insurance company that drags its feet approving an organ transplant until the patient has died).Breakdown crisis—A breakdown crisis occurs when the company fails to perform. Organizations usually bring breakdown crises on themselves by taking shortcuts, deviating from ethical business practice, or showing disdain for the concerns of its constituents. Product liability lawsuits, recalls, environmental disasters, manufacturing accidents and financial scandals (Enronleaps to mind) all fit in the breakdown crisis category.The entire discussion on FIR was kicked off by a comment from listener Michael Allison, who identified a new category that can overlay each of the three categories above: a “lingering crisis.” Michael’s example: zoo animals continuing to die over the course of several years (even if from old age or other natural causes) gave anti-zoo activists ongoing fodder to pitch to the media. This lingering crisis could fit as any of the categories above: meteor if the deaths were all natural and had nothing to do with confinement in a zoo, breakdown if some of the animals died due to a failure to comply with zoo standards (a containment wall four feet too short leading to a zoo goer’s death would fit here in a lingering crisis about animal escapes), and predator if a non-issue is made into an issue by an activist group like PETA (which did, in fact, make plenty of hay out of the situation).
  • Chances are incredibly high that your company is going to experience a crisis of some kind in the next 5 years. It's how you handle that crisis with the media which will likely determine whether that crisis builds or seriously damages your company.That's why it is vital that you develop a crisis communications and management plan that prepares you in advance for this eventuality. In preparing this plan, keep in mind that this crisis may allow you to continue business as normal, or it may result in a situation where you aren't able to get access to the tools you normally use to do your job (natural disaster, lockout, etc.) so your crisis communications kit needs to provide the capability for you to provide the appearance of normality even in the most abnormal situations.Thus it's important for your crisis communications kit to not only be duplicated in some offsite location, but to also include information, disks, graphics, computer files, photos, etc. that are normally readily at your fingertips in your office.Here's a starter list of seven items that should be included in any crisis communications kit:1. A list of the members of the crisis management team, which should include, at minimum, the CEO, a trusted assistant/top manager from the CEO's office, heads of each department, public relations and marketing team members, legal and security. In case of actual crisis, this team will be focused down to the group applicable to that specific crisis.2. Contact information for key officers, spokespeople, and crisis management team members including company and personal phone numbers, email addresses, cell numbers, pagers, faxes, instant message handles, addresses, even spouse's cell numbers. 3. Fact sheets on the company, each division, each physical location, and each product offered.These should be in camera-ready condition, plus available on a disk in a generally-accepted word processor format (Microsoft Word) so they can be revised and printed out if necessary on a computer external to your facilities. Photos should also be included.4. Profiles and biographies for each key manager in your company, again in camera-ready condition and on disk.5. Copies of your company, division and product logos, your press release format and the scanned in signature of your CEO on disk in a format that works on your internal word processing program (plus one in Microsoft Word in case you have to work on a computer that isn't tied to your network.)6. Pre-written scripts answering key questions that you have generated through your crisis scenario analysis. Included in these scripts should be the words you use to say "we don't have that information yet, but will let you know as soon as it becomes available."7. Contact information for each of your key media contacts both locally, nationally, and if appropriate, key financial press and analysts. Contact information for your appropriate political, regulatory, and union leaders should also be included. Don't be afraid to go overboard here - if you have a large chemical release, your CEO will probably want to call not only the Mayor, but the Governor and congressional representatives.We strongly recommend that you assemble this kit shortly. It will be one of the best insurance policies that you can have on hand once a crisis begins.For more information on crisis management and communications, we recommend that you check out Crisis Communication Planning: Organizing and Completing A Plan That Works.
  • Chances are incredibly high that your company is going to experience a crisis of some kind in the next 5 years. It's how you handle that crisis with the media which will likely determine whether that crisis builds or seriously damages your company.That's why it is vital that you develop a crisis communications and management plan that prepares you in advance for this eventuality. In preparing this plan, keep in mind that this crisis may allow you to continue business as normal, or it may result in a situation where you aren't able to get access to the tools you normally use to do your job (natural disaster, lockout, etc.) so your crisis communications kit needs to provide the capability for you to provide the appearance of normality even in the most abnormal situations.Thus it's important for your crisis communications kit to not only be duplicated in some offsite location, but to also include information, disks, graphics, computer files, photos, etc. that are normally readily at your fingertips in your office.Here's a starter list of seven items that should be included in any crisis communications kit:1. A list of the members of the crisis management team, which should include, at minimum, the CEO, a trusted assistant/top manager from the CEO's office, heads of each department, public relations and marketing team members, legal and security. In case of actual crisis, this team will be focused down to the group applicable to that specific crisis.2. Contact information for key officers, spokespeople, and crisis management team members including company and personal phone numbers, email addresses, cell numbers, pagers, faxes, instant message handles, addresses, even spouse's cell numbers. 3. Fact sheets on the company, each division, each physical location, and each product offered.These should be in camera-ready condition, plus available on a disk in a generally-accepted word processor format (Microsoft Word) so they can be revised and printed out if necessary on a computer external to your facilities. Photos should also be included.4. Profiles and biographies for each key manager in your company, again in camera-ready condition and on disk.5. Copies of your company, division and product logos, your press release format and the scanned in signature of your CEO on disk in a format that works on your internal word processing program (plus one in Microsoft Word in case you have to work on a computer that isn't tied to your network.)6. Pre-written scripts answering key questions that you have generated through your crisis scenario analysis. Included in these scripts should be the words you use to say "we don't have that information yet, but will let you know as soon as it becomes available."7. Contact information for each of your key media contacts both locally, nationally, and if appropriate, key financial press and analysts. Contact information for your appropriate political, regulatory, and union leaders should also be included. Don't be afraid to go overboard here - if you have a large chemical release, your CEO will probably want to call not only the Mayor, but the Governor and congressional representatives.We strongly recommend that you assemble this kit shortly. It will be one of the best insurance policies that you can have on hand once a crisis begins.For more information on crisis management and communications, we recommend that you check out Crisis Communication Planning: Organizing and Completing A Plan That Works.
  • Michael Arrington venting on Twitter about Comcast.
  • Prepare a statement for local television media, who have already called you for comment.
  • Come up with some tips on how the communication for this should be handled with parents, how could it have been better?
  • What will you do?
  • UPDATE: Ike Pigott, from the American Red Cross, sent along an addition list that I like a lot—the metrics by which he measures a PR crisis:Power of impact (immediate damage) How hard is this strike?Breadth of impact (duration) How long will it be remembered?Depth of impact (cleanup) How isolated is the damage? Is it one person’s screwup or a system failure?  Fixed with one firing or a massive review?
  • Transcript

    • 1. Public Relations During Times of Crisis
    • 2. Crisis is . . .
      “A nonroutine event that risks undesired visibility that in turn threatens significant reputational damage”
      Credit: Doorley & Garcia, p. 328
    • 3. 4 Types of Crises
      Meteor
      Predator
      Breakdown
      Lingering
      Credit: Shel Holtz @ http://blog.holtz.com/index.php/weblog/crisis_communication_fundamentals/
      Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kittymeetsgoat/1373562566/
    • 4. Sparks of a Crisis
      Environmental
      Technological
      Terroristic
      Criminal Misconduct
      Managerial
      Accidental
      Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/liberato/2521884271/
    • 5. Benefits of Planning
      Reduce Stress
      Demonstrates Goodwill
      Flow of Information
      Involves Stakeholders
      Business Continuity
    • 6. 7 Must Have Elements in Your Crisis Communication Kit
      A list of the members of the crisis management team
      Contact information for key officers, spokespeople, and crisis management team members
      Fact sheets on the company, each division, each physical location, and each product offered.
      Profiles and biographies for each key manager in your company
      Credit: Don Crowther at http://www.globalprblogweek.com/archives/7_musthave_elements_.php
    • 7. 7 Must Have Elements in Your Crisis Communication Kit, cont’d
      Copies of your company, division and product logos, your press release format and the scanned in signature of your CEO on disk
      Pre-written scripts answering key questions that you have generated through your crisis scenario analysis
      Contact information for each of your key media contacts both locally, nationally, and if appropriate, key financial press and analysts.
      Credit: Don Crowther at http://www.globalprblogweek.com/archives/7_musthave_elements_.php
    • 8. Environmental Scan: Search for the Negative
      Google Alerts
      search.twitter.com
      For-fee services like Radian6 & CustomScoop
      From Brian Solis: http://www.briansolis.com/2008/11/reinventing-crisis-communications-for.html
    • 9. The “Suck OR Die” Factor
      “product+sucks”
      “company+sucks”
      “die+company”
      “i+hate+company”
      From Brian Solis: http://www.briansolis.com/2008/11/reinventing-crisis-communications-for.html
    • 10. 3 Rs of Crisis Communication
      Research
      Response
      Recovery
      Photo by Christopher.Woo, Flickr
    • 11. RESEARCH
      Relationship Building
      Environmental Scan
      Emergency Personnel
      Notification Procedures
      Communication Procedures
      Practice
    • 12. Building Relationshipswith Stakeholders
    • 13. Emergency Personnel Team
      Spokesperson (1-2)
      Phone team
      Researcher and writer
      Business continuity
      Decision maker
      Legal council, if applicable
    • 14. Notification Procedures
      Emergency Personnel Team
      Board of Directors
      Employees
      Members
      Other Stakeholders
    • 15. Communication Procedures
      Platform
      Priority
      Policy
    • 16. Spokespersons
      Interest and Empathy
      Honesty and Authenticity
      Responsive and Proactive
      Open to Criticism
      Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/presta/142795058/
    • 17. Bridging
      Don’t Know: I don’t know, but I can tell you…
      Time: That may have been the case in the past. Now we are…
      Importance: That once was important. What is most important now is…
      Completing: I think you would have a more complete picture if you considered…
      Yes and No: No, let me explain. Yes, and furthermore…
    • 18. RESPONSE
      Emergency Notification
      Gathering Information
      Releasing Information
      Stages of Crisis
    • 19. 4 Stages of a Crisis
      From Communication Overtones
    • 20. The Rule of 45 Minutes, 6 Hours, 3 Days, and 2 Weeks
    • 21. Notification
    • 22. Gathering Information
    • 23. Releasing Information
    • 24. Tell It
      Tell it all
      Tell it fast
      Tell them what you’re doing about it
      Tell them when it’s over
      Get back to work
      Credit: Doorley & Garcia, p. 336
    • 25. RECOVERY
      Follow up
      Proactive storytelling
      Solidify relationships
      Adjust plan
    • 26. YOUR TURN
      Executive Director
      Sexual Predator
      Death of Child
      Terrorist Incident
    • 27. Executive Director is Critically Injured in Rollover Accident with Kids
      You are in charge of communications for the Boys and Girls Club. You are working late and you get a call just before 9 p.m. on your cell phone from your Executive Director’s husband. He tells you he has gotten a call from the hospital that your Executive Director has been in a terrible car wreck. You head to the hospital right away and learn from family member that there has been a rollover crash with another SUV and that she was not alone in the car. Several children were also with her, but you still are not sure who they were.
      Taken from real incident in Simi Valley, Calif.
    • 28. After-School Program Employee Charged with Sexual Assault of a Child
      An employee at the Boys and Girls Club was arrested today as he worked and charged with sexual assault and indecency with a child. The employee underwent a background check when hired and passed it. He has also never had any disciplinary problems. The child in the case was a 10-year-old girl who told her parents about the assault, which allegedly occurred a the center. Her parent then called the police. A few hours after the arrest, concerned parents, who have heard the initial reports through the grapevine start to arrive and angrily demand answers as to how this could have happened.
      Taken from an amalgamation of real incidents in schools
    • 29. Child Dies in After School Program
      You are the executive director of a Girls and Boys Club. One of your kids who comes on a regular basis has some special needs but has never been disruptive. Today when he arrived after school, he seemed troubled and incoherent. He started to bang his head against the wall, and while you called 911 support, one of your male staff members held him down to keep him from hurting himself and others. While waiting for emergency personnel, the worker realized the boy was not breathing. He started to administer CPR and you called emergency services back to apprise them of the situation. Once EMTs arrived they continued acute care, but the child did not survive. The cause of death is unknown.
      Taken from real incident in San Antonio, SW Mental Health Center
    • 30. Shooter Enters Boys and Girls Club, Kills 2 and Injures 5
      A gunman has entered your building and killed one employee, one child and has injured two more employees and three students. The scene is chaos, and your office is being cordoned off by the police as a crime scene. You are not allowed to return to get anything. You are not injured, but two of your crisis team are, and you are already getting calls from media on your cell phone, which thankfully was on your person when the shootings began. You have no idea who the shooter was, but the police are starting to interview witnesses and staff.
    • 31. Measuring “Success”
      Power of the Impact
      How hard
      Breadth of the Impact
      How long
      Depth of the Impact
      How isolated
      Credit: Ike Pigott
    • 32. Kami Watson Huyse, APR
      Phone: (713) 568-5750
      E-mail: kami@myprpro.com
      Blog: Communication Overtones
      Web site: www.myprpro.com
      Used with Permission
      Copyright August 2008 © all rights reserved
    • 33. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
      Prepare at Work,American Red Cross
      “Now is Too Late,” by Gerald R. Baron
      CrisisBlogger
      7 Must-Have Elements for Crisis Planning
      Crisis Communication Articles
      Emergency Procedures Flowcharts
      Doorley, J., & Garcia, H. F. (2007). Reputation management: The key to successful public relations and corporate communications. New York: Routledge.
    • 34. Contact Me
      Barbara B. Nixon, Ph.D. (ABD)
      Public Relations Faculty Member
      Southeastern University
      E-mail: bbnixon@seuniversity.edu
      Twitter: barbaranixon
      Skype: barbara.b.nixon
      Blog: Public Relations Matters

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