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