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  1. 1. Chapter 13 Crisis and Credibility
  2. 2. Objectives <ul><li>To create awareness of situations that could become crises. </li></ul><ul><li>To plan strategies and implement policies that help an organization through a crisis. </li></ul><ul><li>To recognize the triggering event that precipitates a crisis. </li></ul><ul><li>To understand management's likely response to a crisis and plan a coping strategy. </li></ul><ul><li>To be sensitive to the needs of all publics, including nimbus publics, when a crisis occurs. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Anticipating a Crisis <ul><li>Issues management helps organization anticipate crises </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Challenge is deciding which issues are likely to engage publics or create an event that triggers a crisis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Role of PR is informing management about issues and situations that could escalate into crises </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Corporate culture, management attitude determine management reaction </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Recurring Crises <ul><li>Urban myths can be resurrected </li></ul><ul><li>New developments on old issues can bring old crises back </li></ul><ul><li>Continuing action on crisis issue can keep it at crisis point </li></ul>
  5. 5. Characteristics of Crises <ul><li>Always involve people </li></ul><ul><li>Always interrupt the normal chain of events or command </li></ul>
  6. 6. Categories of Crises <ul><li>Physically violent or nonviolent </li></ul><ul><li>Several causes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Acts of nature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intentional acts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unintentional acts </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Crisis Management <ul><li>Key is anticipation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Begin by identifying kinds of crises organization is most likely to face </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Then examine policies that might be put into place to prevent crises in each category of crisis </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Risk assessment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interpret data from research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluate vulnerability of organization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crisis management aided by use of two-way symmetrical public relations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Warnings more likely when communication open and two-way </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conflicts can be more easily resolved </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Crisis Publics <ul><li>Some publics easily identified </li></ul><ul><li>Some often neglected in planning process because not immediately affected by but eventually feel the impact </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Called nimbus publics </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Imagining a Crisis <ul><li>Involve as many people in organization as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Take role of intelligent and resourceful adversary, asking “What’s the best way to wreck this organization?” </li></ul><ul><li>Assume role of corporate management and ask “What is the best response?” </li></ul><ul><li>Start by asking how money, people, products/services, processes and locations of operation will be disrupted </li></ul><ul><li>Consider impact each event will have on each public individually </li></ul>
  10. 10. Communications Climate and Crises <ul><li>Organization’s communications climate has a great impact on how management handles crises </li></ul><ul><li>Shutting off the flow of information is probably worst way to handle a crisis </li></ul><ul><li>An open information flow quells rumors, and makes it possible to create trust </li></ul>
  11. 11. Anticipating a Crisis <ul><li>Collect information on potential crises before they occur </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the information readily available to those most likely to need it </li></ul><ul><li>Keep it in a form that is usable in a crisis </li></ul>
  12. 12. Anticipating a Crisis (cont.) <ul><li>Types of information to gather: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Addresses, contact information on all company offices, branches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Floor plans, employee list for each location </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bio information on all employees, in-depth on key executives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Photos of facilities, key executives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Statistics on facilities and organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>History of organization </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Anticipating a Crisis (cont.) <ul><li>Types of information to gather: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emergency information such as nearest hospital, police, fire </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plan for contacting every member of workforce </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizational documents such as vision, mission, positioning statements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Position papers on key issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information on key publics and how to contact them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Digitalized video </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. A Crisis Plan <ul><li>A crisis plan should be: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A guideline rather than an overly detailed process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy to remember </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flexible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thorough and comprehensive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communicated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reviewed regularly and updated </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Crisis Communication Essentials <ul><li>Existence of a communications plan as part of crisis plan </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to assemble a crisis team when a crisis occurs </li></ul><ul><li>Use of a single spokesperson during a crisis </li></ul>
  16. 16. Guidelines for Communications Plans <ul><li>Must include strong internal as well as external communication </li></ul><ul><li>Must carefully choose right medium for each public </li></ul><ul><li>Must pretest message statements before they are disseminated </li></ul><ul><li>Should designate certain members of crisis team as fact finders </li></ul><ul><li>Legal counsel must be involved to avoid “no comment” response when openness needed </li></ul>
  17. 17. Crisis Narrative <ul><li>Story public hears must be truthful </li></ul><ul><li>Key publics must be able to relate to story </li></ul><ul><li>Narrative must demonstrate that the organization has control of the situation and will successfully resolve the crisis </li></ul>
  18. 18. Crisis Spokesperson <ul><li>Choosing the one spokesperson is the most important act dealing with a crisis </li></ul><ul><li>May or may not be CEO </li></ul><ul><li>Person sets tone for how crisis is managed </li></ul><ul><li>Must be perceived as knowledgeable and up to date on developments </li></ul><ul><li>Must have sole responsibility and authority to speak for the organization </li></ul><ul><li>May have one spokesperson for internal audiences and another for external </li></ul>
  19. 19. Employees Role in a Crisis <ul><li>Are on the front line in dealing with a crisis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Organization’s most credible representatives to people outside the organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People will develop perceptions from way employees behave </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Employees should never learn about a crisis from the news media or other second-hand source </li></ul>
  20. 20. Hindrances in Crisis Management <ul><li>Extent of crisis may not be known immediately </li></ul><ul><li>Persons affected by crisis may be hard to identify </li></ul><ul><li>Cause of crisis may be hard to identify, and may be never known </li></ul><ul><li>Crisis is always traumatic to audiences affected directly </li></ul>
  21. 21. Hindrances in Crisis Management (cont.) <ul><li>Accurate and appropriate information about the crisis is expected by the publics, sometimes at unreasonable levels </li></ul><ul><li>Information decisions are made under high stress </li></ul><ul><li>An organization’s credibility is suspect in a crisis </li></ul><ul><li>A crisis incites emotional behavior </li></ul>
  22. 22. Crisis Constants <ul><li>People learn about a crisis primarily from personal networks </li></ul><ul><li>People tend to interpret the seriousness of a crisis in terms of personal risk or risk to people important to them </li></ul><ul><li>Government sources are relied on as the most authoritative </li></ul>
  23. 23. Crisis Constants (cont.) <ul><li>Amount of mass media coverage indicates the significance of the crisis to a global public </li></ul><ul><li>Availability to information in an open-communication environment reduces rumor and increases the accuracy of assessments of the situation </li></ul>
  24. 24. PR’s Responsibility in a Crisis <ul><li>Forewarn and prepare management </li></ul><ul><li>Continuously monitor publics </li></ul><ul><li>Convince management to act </li></ul><ul><li>Give management insight and objective information they don’t have </li></ul><ul><li>Provide guidance to avoid arrogance and bad judgment </li></ul><ul><li>Identify appropriate ways to involve employees </li></ul>
  25. 25. Dealing with the Media <ul><li>Prepare a first response release immediately </li></ul><ul><li>Issue update bulletins as written briefs, taped actualities, updates on Web site </li></ul><ul><li>Crises generate contradictory information, hard to keep facts straight </li></ul>
  26. 26. Role of PR Practitioner in a Crisis <ul><li>Conduct the delicate negotiations between the source and media about what to use and what not to use </li></ul><ul><li>Provide enough opportunities for information to be given to the media </li></ul><ul><li>Educate as well as inform the media </li></ul>
  27. 27. Media Tips in a Crisis <ul><li>Speedy replies to queries are all important </li></ul><ul><li>Keep cool under pressure </li></ul><ul><li>If you don’t know the answer, say so and attempt to get it </li></ul><ul><li>Eliminate obstacles reporters might encounter </li></ul><ul><li>Never ask to see a reporter’s story </li></ul><ul><li>Use your name when providing information and allow yourself to be quoted by name </li></ul><ul><li>Never argue with a reporter about the value of a story </li></ul>
  28. 28. Media Tips in a Crisis <ul><li>Any information that goes to one source should go to all </li></ul><ul><li>Never flatly refuse to provide information </li></ul><ul><li>Always know the name and employer of the reporters you are talking with and how to contact them </li></ul><ul><li>Never give an answer to a reporter’s question that might not stand up or might embarrass you later </li></ul><ul><li>Never falsify or slant your answers </li></ul>
  29. 29. Media Tips in a Crisis (cont.) <ul><li>Be especially alert about photographs </li></ul><ul><li>Pass information along to reporters as soon as you get it </li></ul><ul><li>Have employee and organization records available to refer to in the event of a reporter’s question </li></ul><ul><li>Point out positive aspects of the organization even as it deals with crisis </li></ul><ul><li>Confine damage estimated to general descriptions </li></ul>
  30. 30. Media Coverage of Crisis <ul><li>Instantaneous coverage creates problems of perception vs. reality </li></ul><ul><li>Time pressures may force media to release information without adequate checking or editing </li></ul><ul><li>Media coverage of military, terrorist events may use inflammatory words or descriptions, and may use victims of terrorism as symbols </li></ul>
  31. 31. Media Coverage of Crisis (cont.) <ul><li>Difficulties arise due to a conflict of opinion about the function, role and responsibility of media in reporting global crises </li></ul><ul><li>Differences in government control of media and journalists’ own sense of responsibility lead to different global interpretations of the same news </li></ul>
  32. 32. Rumors <ul><li>Thrive in crisis situations of anxiety, emotion, uncertainty, distress </li></ul><ul><li>Are likely when: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Authentic information is lacking, incomplete </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Situations are loaded with anxiety, fear </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doubts exist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People feel they can’t control the situation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prolonged decision-making delays occur </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizational conflict is present </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. Combating Rumors <ul><li>Analyze the scope, seriousness, impact of the rumor before trying to combat it </li></ul><ul><li>Analyze the causes, motives, sources and disseminators of rumors </li></ul><ul><li>Confer with persons affected or damaged and share your concern </li></ul><ul><li>Immediately provide complete and authentic information </li></ul>
  34. 34. Combating Rumors (cont.) <ul><li>Feed the grapevine yourself </li></ul><ul><li>Contact the formal and informal leaders, opinion leaders, influentials to clarify the situation </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid referring to the rumor in the process of combating it </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct meetings to dispel the rumor at the grassroots level </li></ul>
  35. 35. Crisis Evaluation <ul><li>Crises should be evaluated in terms of the damage done or the risk of future damage </li></ul><ul><li>Much of the evaluation is based on communication </li></ul>
  36. 36. Crisis Evaluation Questions <ul><li>What was the cause? </li></ul><ul><li>What strategies, policies could be developed that would prevent a similar or related crisis? </li></ul><ul><li>Did the crisis plan work? Are changes needed? </li></ul><ul><li>How did involved personnel perform? </li></ul>
  37. 37. Successful Crisis Handling <ul><li>Early detection </li></ul><ul><li>Incident containment </li></ul><ul><li>Business resumption </li></ul><ul><li>Lessons learned </li></ul><ul><li>Timely decisions made on facts </li></ul><ul><li>Improved reputation as a result of appropriate response </li></ul>
  38. 38. Points to Remember <ul><li>Credibility always at stake in crisis situation </li></ul><ul><li>Public perception of honesty, openness is essential </li></ul><ul><li>Failure to be available or prepared damages credibility </li></ul>