Posts Tagged ‘public relations crisis’

Crisis Corner: Resolving the Company PR Crisis Before It Begins

April 19th, 2010

In most public relations crises, the common denominator remains, maddeningly, the same – a change in tactics and statements, mid-game, that throw more gas on the fire.  Perhaps it’s easy to understand why; we only need to think of our own personal ordeals fraught with anxiety and panic.  In the face of uncertainty, it’s easy to lose grip on rational thought, and even easier to disregard consistent steps that offer a careful exit to safety.

That’s why Praecere’s philosophy on media crisis management and crisis communications places a premium on planning discipline.  After all, crisis aversion is a heck of a lot more fun exercise than crisis management.  From Fortune 100 companies to small businesses, every company – if they haven’t already – must take the following steps:

• Be honest with themselves and others;

• Identify each potential weakness in their product or service;

• Know how these weaknesses may affect relevant stakeholders

• Analyze the most effective way to communicate with these stakeholders;

• Have default and standby messages ready to communicate quickly and buy time;

…. and ….

• Remind themselves to be honest with themselves and others.

Of course, it’s impossible to anticipate every possible permutation of mistakes, miscalculations or flat-out wrongdoing that may occur.  Still, a small investment in crisis management now can avert much more painful outcomes down the road.

Crisis Corner: The Only Way out for the RNC

March 29th, 2010

Federal campaign disclosure documents revealed today show that the Republican National Committee had included an expense for $2,000 for “meals” at the Voyeur West Hollywood Club in Los Angeles last month.  The club’s theme, as described by the Los Angeles Times, leans toward “Eyes Wide Shut” with a touch of “impromptu bondage and S&M.”  In response to the public relations crisis, a RNC spokesman says that the activity is being investigated.

In solving a PR crisis, one of the most important steps is taking direct and concrete steps to remedy the problem.  Actions speak louder than words, and the RNC is no exception to this immutable axiom.

For the RNC to give its “investigation” theme clarity and substance, it must actually act like it is conducting an audit of some sort, and no matter how you look at it, someone’s gotta pay the price.  There’s no better way for the RNC to put this episode behind the Republican party than to fire Chairman Michael Steele.

• Steele’s sheer incompetence and disastrous leadership have been extensively documented.  Each time the man speaks, he manages to step in it even more and more.  The longer he stays at the helm, the harder it will be for anyone to take any claims of an “investigation” seriously.

• The RNC must act fast.  If not, the Republican brand will sustain heavy damage coming off the brutal health care debates.  That brand (or at least what it claims to promote) is totally at odds with what the club expense stands for: fast and loose spending; sexually-themed parties; gay rights; Hollywood free-wheeling and vice-ridden behavior.

• The $ signs all over this give the story a simple narrative to follow.  Therefore, the more the RNC tries to lap tap dance around the expense report, or somehow shift the blame to Democrats, the worse it will get.

Real leadership is often about tough choices.  The kingmakers at the RNC must appreciate this principle and act quickly before this scandal gets worse.

Bankers, and the Winter of Crisis Management Discontent

December 15th, 2009

Does your company have a crisis plan with a public relations component?  If not, check out this parable.

Say the President, who continued the previous Administration’s generous bailout program for your industry, asks you to visit the White House to discuss industry progress (regress?) in 2009, and what steps you – the industry player – will be taking in 2010.

The meeting is in the morning.  If you don’t live/breathe/work in DC, you would probably get to the city the night before to make sure you attend the meeting.  In fact, the timing is all the more convenient as the meeting is on a Monday, so presumably you have all day Sunday without any work-related distractions to travel to DC.  This is the President, after all.

When the President of the United States invites you to visit, and your industry’s bottom-line is the sole topic of discussion, you… DO.  NOT.  STAND.  HIM.  UP.

Yet, that’s precisely what three of the top six biggest U.S. bank CEOs did this past Monday.  While they were graciously patched in via conference call, such public relations crisis blunders are inexcusable.  The impression conveyed by the absence is ignorant aloofness at best, and sheer contempt and arrogance at worst.  It doesn’t matter if a missing CEO has been supportive of the Administration’s efforts and openly sympathetic to Americans affected by the economic crisis.  When you skip such an important meeting, what do you think the press will seize on – your caring words, or your empty chair at Obama’s table?  All of a sudden, you’ve switched from thought leadership to public relations crisis management mode.

The episode is reminiscent of the auto industry executives who flew on private jets to demand bailout money from Congress.  An expert in crisis public relations would never let a client’s corporate image go to waste over such mistakes.

When creating a crisis PR plan, don’t just focus on getting past the big hurdles – make sure you think about the small details.  After all, such mistakes provide great fodder to the ever-hungry political media.

Spelling out Crisis Management PR, in 160 Characters or Less

December 14th, 2009

Disclaimer – this blog post is a bit more than 160 characters, the max for a SMS, but the message remains the same.  A stinging series of articles (and really damaging/damning picture) in the New York Times reveal the lengths that the wireless industry has gone to in the past few years to oppose bans on texting while driving, almost to absurd results.  The stories allow us to reverse-engineer how a public relations crisis happens, and how crisis PR can blunt such trends.

Distracted driving is an awful narrative for wireless companies, simply because the dilemma is so easily perceived – just try to convince an objective person that you can keep your eyes simultaneously on the phone and the road.

When your company is engulfed in a bad narrative, you effectively have a public relations crisis.  And, when major media outlets are denting your online reputation management capabilities, it only takes a few clicks for the bad news to spread like wildfire.  This is indeed the case with distracted driving, as a quick news search today shows this digital (no pun intended) conversation taking place in numerous states, if they haven’t banned texting while driving already – Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, amongst others.

PR crisis communication regularly recommends that a company or person in distress run into the crisis to wrestle control of it, not the other way around – otherwise you stand to lose all credibility on what matters to you most, whether it’s your reputation or bottom-line.  Had the wireless industry initially ran a more thoughtful issues management campaign to take the lead in the discussion on public safety, perhaps the relevant stories wouldn’t be as inflammatory or embarrassing as they currently are.