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Crisis Communications: Myths, Exceptions, Realities

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Bob Conrad's presentation on crisis communications to the Orange County chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. November 17, 2010.

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Crisis Communications: Myths, Exceptions, Realities

  1. 1. Crisis Communications Myths, Exceptions, Realities Bob Conrad, MA, APR Orange County PRSA | Nov. 18, 2010
  2. 2. Assumptions • Crises can be managed (well) • Negative publicity is always bad (Berger, 2010) • Communicate – Quickly – With affected publics – Avoid saying “no comment” • Never battle with the media (Reid, AP, 2006) • Maintain positive stance
  3. 3. Caveat: What we know In many – most – instances the “rules” of crisis communications hold true • Preparedness • Pre-emption • Responsiveness • Openness • Empathy BUT
  4. 4. Every crisis is different
  5. 5. Today • Crises explode • Media – Democratized – Changing roles • Complex orgs (Roux-Dufort, 2009) – Omnipresent – Vulnerable – Less control – Unpredictable publics • Misinformation – Travels quickly (Wikileaks “release,” 700 hits) – Becomes fact (Toyota, “89 killed”)
  6. 6. Media • Press realities – Reputation at an all time low (Pew, 2008) – Polarized, competitive – Facts (what’s not being said?) – Corrections dubious (Wash. Post) – Context can’t, and won’t, be corrected – Public is not always top of mind • Link
  7. 7. Examples “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” (What if you have 10,000 Twitter followers?) Archives versus SEO • Fire departments complain, link • Antelope Valley, link • News Review, link
  8. 8. Apologize “BP could apologize every day,” says Keith Michael Hearit, a communications professor at Western Michigan University. “They could have a situation where the C.E.O. goes on an environmental pilgrimage and falls on his knees going up a mountain, and it wouldn’t do them any good.” New York Times, Aug. 22, 2010
  9. 9. Price of positive intentions • Google Street View (under invest. by FCC) • Duke Univ. (lawsuits / settlements) • Virginia Tech. ($11M) • Domino’s (24 hours); Tylenol (8 days) • HP ($9B)
  10. 10. Take away • Crises are context dependent, context changes • Uncertainty reigns • Leaders take heat (Framing Theory, An & Gower, 2008) • Apologize strategically • Respond quickly – with known information • Avoid commenting on what’s not known (say why) • Media can’t be trusted (Audi, CBS, fraud) • Own your media (thisisreno.com) • Expect criticism (Domino’s) • Expect to pay (HP, $9B in market capitalization)
  11. 11. Conclusion This too shall pass. Questions? @BobConrad Thegoodthebadthespin.com 775.636.7959 bob@conradcommunications.com

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