Effectively Managing Crisis Communication
Aug. 17, 2012
What is a Crisis?
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Emergency/out-of-the-ordinary situation
Human error/inappropriate behavior
Brief or extended
Can involve other organizations
Good thing (award/achievement)
Yes, you CAN prevent many crises
 Make sure policies are written, publicized and
practiced
 Encourage consistency
 Be fair and honest
 Listen to your stakeholders
Crisis Team
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Leadership team/decision maker(s)
Content expert(s)/operations
Public Relations professional(s)
Risk management
Devil’s advocate
Scribe
Planning
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Consider potential crises
Assemble key team members
Discuss possible responses
Put processes in writing
Test them
Adjust response plan accordingly
Test again
Commit to memory!!!
Things to have ON PAPER
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24/7 contact information for everyone
Instructions for posting to your Web site
Instructions for changing voicemail messages
Templates for “likely” emergencies
Spotting a Crisis
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Milestone events
“Celebrity” employees/stakeholders
Disgruntled employees
Passionate stakeholders
Initiatives going/gone wrong
Units with little supervision
Industry/national environment
Current events
Leaders who think rules don’t apply to them
Process (in place in advance of a crisis)
 Have a designated meeting place
 Assign one person to gather information
 Consider what types of things should be in
writing
 Determine information flow
Information Flow
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Who
Who
Who
Who
Who
handles incoming calls, emails, etc.?
has the power to mitigate the crisis?
has the power to make it worse?
is paying the bills?
are the customers?
Process: This is NOT a Test
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Call your dean/supervisor
Call Public Affairs
Determine what you know
Determine what you don’t know
Think about your audience(s) for this crisis
Build your message
Share it – in a timely fashion – with your
audience(s)
Building Relationships
 What media “cover” your organization?
 What are their deadlines?
 Are there special sections/segments that
match your organization’s expertise and
offerings?
 Who are the specific reporters assigned to
your organization?
The Call
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Never talk without prepping
Never allow your boss to talk without prepping
You never have to talk to reporters
Think about the message
Do the reporter’s work for him/her
The Interview
 Look and act professionally
 Speak clearly
 Use your bullets in EVERY answer possible
The Number One Rule
Tell the truth!!!!!!
Example: Penn State University
 PSU was a national football powerhouse
 Longtime PSU assistant coach was accused of
child sexual abuse
 Instead of telling the truth, high-level officials
lied to protect the school’s brand
 Victims went public with their stories
 Lies were revealed
 Coach, president, others lost their jobs
 PSU will pay millions in damages
 PSU brand is badly tarnished
Special Situations
 Off the record
 Not for attribution
 No comment
Getting the Story Right
 Summarize your points
 Provide supporting documents in simple form
 Offer to answer questions during writing
process
 Be available!!
 Read/watch/listen to the story
 When necessary, set the record straight
Crisis Communications 101
Anne Mulcahy (former Xerox head):
 Get the cow out of the ditch
 Figure out how the cow got in the ditch
 Create a plan to make sure the cow doesn’t
end up back in the ditch
Media Relations Points to Remember
Establish relationships BEFORE a crisis
When interviewing, be prepared
Make 1-2 points…stick to them
If it’s written or recorded, it could end up on
the news.
 Tell the truth!!!!!
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Questions?