Tag Archives: crisis management

The X’s and O’s of Crisis Management

by Megan Reichenbach

As we all know, mistakes happen. And sometimes these mistakes lead to detrimental circumstances. Miriam Fry’s article on Platform Magazine, “You’ve got 60 Minutes,” describes a situation where PR practitioners “take the position of the quarterback” when it comes to cleaning up the mess of a controversial situation. But let’s ask ourselves: are the PR practitioners the only ones doing the clean up?

Peter Federico, senior vice president and chief risk officer of American Capitol Agency Management, seems to think otherwise. “Every person in the vicinity of the controversial situation needs to take a stance in rectifying the problem,“ Federico said. “And every person needs to take this stance early in the game.”

From saying the wrong thing during a press conference to a federal takeover of a business, those in the finance and investment markets need to think outside their comfort zones and more like a PR professional. Federico lends a breakdown of what financial and investment companies need to do in order to get back on their feet.

For those of us who are prone to procrastinating, Crisis Management 101 may have to be added to your to-do list. Crisis planning requires steps to be written down beforehand: “it’s basic, but crisis businesses need to follow a play book; otherwise, things will be missed,” Federico said. This preparation goes hand in hand with the tips suggested on the PR Coach website, which asserts “the time to plan, of course, is when there is no crisis.”

The Pre-Crisis: Prologue to the Crisis Playbook 101

Businesses should develop BCP, or business continuity planning. In public relations “layman” terms, this would be the time that all external factors are identified and potential threats are determined.

Everyone in the business, not just those public relations quarterbacks, must come up with actions to take for every type of crisis. Even though we can’t predict every kind of crisis, we all might as well do as much as we can to ready ourselves for whatever comes our way.

“Who is in charge?”
Before the crisis occurs, a company needs to find out who is going to be accountable for whom, and for what controversial situations.

“Who is going to talk to whom?”
This question centers the main responsibility of a PR person: communication. Throughout the hierarchy of a business, every person needs to create relationships and a communication plan with other members in the business. According to Federico, this simple task of relationship building will save a company from becoming defeated by the crisis.

Businesses can’t forget to create a funding plan. Managing a crisis without a hold on the finances of the company would be nearly impossible, wouldn’t you think?

In a tragic situation where a company’s facility has been affected or ruined, a pre-conceived plan for an alternative location to keep business running is fundamental.

Pre-crisis planning also calls for a written list of constituents, including suppliers, investors, regulators, board members, customers, etc. A simple list of names and phone numbers can be the difference between success and failure.

The Crisis

Identify the crisis
During the crisis, the steps listed in the Prologue of Crisis 101 are put to the test.

Believe it or not, the steps taken during the crisis itself are more easily executed than expected, thanks to pre-crisis planning. Once the specific BCP is chosen for the crisis at hand, follow these tips given by Peter Federico:

• Look back at those relationships that were built and come into contact with whoever is in authority.
• Establish the ultimate decision maker.
• Identify the essential employees in the business and designate appropriate responsibilities.
• Ensure that critical systems are operable. Are the phone lines down? Are the computers still functioning?
• Prioritize all decisions that need to be made, and decide at which point these should be executed during the clean up.
• Ensure that all finances are in check. Does the company have the liquidity to maintain all critical operations?
• Develop the internal and external communication plans—so critical. This is the point in which those individuals in the finance and business industry need show off those PR skills.
• Establish a timeline for damage control.
• Establish meetings to be held in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. Communicating the situation at hand to the public is key to saving the reputation of the company.

It all sounds pretty basic, but most businesses take planning for granted.

Communication is key in a crisis. Acting like a PR professional, and taking on the role of relationship building, can make a world of a difference for those companies involved in a crisis. For companies in the financial or investment industry, there are steps taken by individuals who do not, in fact, have a “PR” position in the business. Whether a controversial situation in a PR firm or financial company, all of those individuals working for the organization need to get a handle on Crisis 101.

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Tiger Silenced, Nike Tees Off

Nike released an advertisement with Tiger Woods that continues to receive a lot of hype. In the ad, Tiger’s late father speaks to him on current issues that erupted in the past couple of months.

Because many sponsors no longer want to be associated with Tiger, they dropped him from their advertisements; however, Nike is letting the public know it is staying with the golf pro. If this video is an apology from Tiger, is it too late?

As a PR student, we learn to address problems as soon as they arise, and this particular ad is coming out a little late and from the wrong people. There is no response from Tiger, and it can leave the viewer more confused than sympathetic. However, I don’t think this ad has much to do with Tiger. So, you might think to yourself: Why would Nike spend so much money not selling anything?

Well, I think I know where Nike was going with this one.

Nike’s message seems to be reprimanding Tiger through his father. No, Nike is not dropping Tiger from advertisements, but it is letting the public know it doesn’t agree with his previous actions.

This was wise PR in my opinion because, yes, Tiger is not very popular right now, but this scandal is sure to blow over sooner or later. The name Tiger Woods sold products in the past, and it is sure to sell products in the future as well.

By telling the public it will continue the sponsorship with Tiger, Nike can use him in upcoming ads and help rebuild his image as an athlete instead of a celebrity scandal. Nike is tackling the issue head-on, and instead of dropping him, it can use his persona for years to come when his personal life is no longer an issue. People forget Tiger Woods is a respected athlete, and fans will want what Tiger is wearing or using on the golf course.

Other brands don’t seem to realize that when things get tough you can’t just bail out. As a PR professional, one of the many jobs you will have is damage control. If a product were recalled, a company would be on top of it, making sure to send out press releases and commercials about how it plans to improve and to make things better. The same goes for the Nike ad; Nike told the public Tiger learned something, and he is back and ready for a new start.

By not bailing out on Tiger like other brands, Nike looks heroic for standing by someone they have sponsored for years. Why end a long relationship over something that is only tabloid-worthy?

Bravo to the PR pros at Nike. They know how to take a situation and deal with it.

By John Paul Bruno

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Mastering Crisis Management – On and Off the Course

We all love to get caught up in Hollywood drama. Even if we don’t actually purchase a tabloid, we’re all guilty of glancing at them while waiting in the supermarket check-out line. It’s as if we feel a personal relationship with the celebrities whose faces fill the pages. We want to know what they’re doing, what they’re wearing and every other detail of their daily lives. Americans center their lives around what celebrities say and do while the media follow their every move. But what happens when the publicity turns negative and the glow these stars shine in is nothing short of bad lighting?

It’s been a few months now since we first heard of Tiger Woods crashing his car outside of his home; since then Woods has been trying to play it low on the radar. It wasn’t until Feb. 19, a whole two months after the world learned the news of his infidelity, that Woods finally made a public apology. There was only one problem — the public didn’t really accept it.

From a publicity point of view, Woods tried to stay out of the public eye in hopes that the media would quiet down. From a public relations point of view, Woods made the biggest mistake in crisis management.

As public relations students, we all learn that telling the truth is the most important principle in crisis management. It’s always best to tell the whole truth and to tell it quickly. Hiding from the public only makes you seem suspicious and guilty. It also allows the media to make any speculations they want.

According to an article in People, John Eckel, CEO of the sports and entertainment company Alliance, said the hardest thing to do when there is a crisis is to address the media.

I agree. The last thing any person wants to do is voluntarily throw themselves into a sea of news-hungry reporters. Everything blows over with time, and sooner than later the media will move on to someone or something else, right?

Wrong.

This was Woods’ first mistake. In fact, the longer he hid from the public, the more he allowed the media to speculate and bash him.

PR practitioners must always get in front of the story when dealing with a crisis. It’s impossible to predict when something negative may put your client in a bad light, but it’s not impossible to steer the public back to your side. Of course, every situation is different and calls for different measures, but there are two things that every successful crisis plan shares: truth and immediate response.

Sometimes brands in crisis get so caught up in avoiding the media that they also avoid their more important audience, the public. After all, our job as public relations practitioners is to build our brand’s reputation. Hiding the truth, even if the truth makes our brand look bad, only severs the ties we have with our audience.

For Woods, eventually the truth came out – as it always does. The media’s speculations were right, but Woods didn’t let this throw him off course. He is scheduled to play in the 2010 Masters April 5 through 11. After all, golf wouldn’t be half as interesting without Tiger.

by Kassandra Hannay

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