Crisis PR on standby

Every now and again we will get calls from organizations that want us to be their crisis PR firm.  This is not unusual as that’s one of the services we provide clients, and have for several decades.

What is a bit unusual is that they only want us to be their crisis PR firm.  They say they have no need for ongoing marketing and PR, but should a crisis arise, they want to call upon a firm that can jump in and handle the crisis.

When we get these calls, our first question is whether they have a crisis PR plan.  They often answer no. So our next question is how does an organization expect a crisis PR consultant to represent them if they don’t know anything about the organization?

Crisis communications is not undertaken in a vacuum.  It is not like being an emergency room doctor who can treat a patient when they get sick.  An effective crisis PR consultant is one who can provide solid advice because there is little or no learning curve.

This is not to say we haven’t been called in to handle a crisis for an organization that needs us immediately.  We have lots of times.  But that is different. When this happens and we immediately drop everything to help, we almost always do a crisis plan thereafter and often develop an ongoing relationship.

As mentioned earlier, when these calls come in we first recommend a Crisis Communications Plan.  By us doing a plan, we get to know the organization from top to bottom.  We meet the people, understand their industry and become aware of their challenges.  Next, we often recommend crisis communications staff training.  This is a session where we train the internal communications and executive staff in how to handle a crisis and perhaps most important, how to prevent a crisis from happening.

After creating a crisis plan and doing some training, we then have enough information to serve as effective crisis counsel.  We know the organization.  We know the people.  We know what may arise.  So if a crisis occurs, we then can jump in and help.




PR 101: How to be relevant

A big part of successfully seeing your story in print is being relevant.  What does that mean?  It means showing the media how your message fits into the daily conversation.

I don’t mean to use jargon here.  Too often organizations are so focused on getting media coverage, that they neglect to consider how to make their message relevant to what the media are writing about.  If your message adds value, enlightens, educates or clarifies, you have a better chance of getting the media attention you seek.

When marketing your organization through media coverage, the first place to start is to be acutely aware of what is happening in the world  and in your local community.  Then you can think about how your story fits into what the media are already writing about.  It is logical that the press will pay attention to your message if they are interested in the topic already, rather than trying to get them interested in a subject out of left field.

I am not saying it’s easy.  Not every organization or company has something to contribute to current news topics.  But you would be surprised how creative you can become when thinking along those lines and how ideas pop up.


Crisis PR and telling the truth

Over the past week, we witnessed two amazing displays of truth.  First, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted that he had used crack cocaine, something that was alleged but he denied.  However, when word came that a video existed of him using the drug, and the police had the video, he had no choice but to tell the media that he had not been truthful.

Then, President Obama cited the words so few presidents ever dare utter: “I’m sorry.”  He was not only apologizing to the American people, but implying that he had misled them by promising that they could keep their “old” health insurance if they wanted and not be forced into Obamacare.

The list goes on and on with public figures admitting wrongdoing rather than continuing the denial game.  Is this a sudden display of truth over lies, or is something else going on here?

Lying is certainly nothing new to people in positions of influence and power.  But what is new (relatively) is something called the internet.

It is impossible for a public figure to say anything without the risk that it will come back to haunt them on the web.  It often comes in the form of a cellphone video.  In the case of the president, everything he says and does is documented and there is no denying anymore.

The “mainstream” media have played and replayed Obama citing his promise about people keeping their insurance.  Faced with his own words, president had no choice but to own up to what he said.  Ford was happy to deny his drug use until he knew for sure that a video existed of him using drugs.  Then, he had no choice but to admit it.

So are our public figures better people for admitting the truth, or are they just appearing to be truthful to save their jobs?  The new remedy for lying seems to be telling the truth and asking for forgiveness.  But it is pretty clear that the catalyst for this truthfulness is YouTube and the internet.

When faced with a crisis PR or marketing situation, telling the truth is always the best policy.  Continuing to deny will almost always come back to bite.  There are just too many cellphones around and too many YouTube videos.

Truthfulness has always been good public relations even before the advent of video.  The public can be surprisingly forgiving for making mistakes.  What people don’t forgive is lying.

That’s the Watergate story, and for another time.