Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deal with It: Communicating in a Crisis - How to Navitate the Chaos and Triumph

Deal with It: Communicating in a Crisis - “How to Navigate the Chaos and Triumph”
written by Gloria Buono Daly, as appeared on NYWICI.org on May 8, 2009

On May 5th, NYWICI members and guests gathered at Burson-Marsteller NY for a panel on how to master crisis management in politics, government, business and non-profit organizations. Panelists addressed the gaps, critical challenges and successes in crisis communications.

The event was moderated by Courtney Hazlett, columnist and celebrity correspondent, MSNBC. The panelists included Cindy Leggett-Flynn, partner, Brunswick Group LLC; Davia Temin, president, Temin & Company; Loretta Ucelli, senior advisor, Gutenberg Communications; and Gail Cohen, Global Chair of Healthcare Practice, Burson-Marsteller NY.

Hazlett started by quoting then Senator John F. Kennedy: “The medium, television, which lends itself to manipulation, exploitation and gimmicks, can be abused by demagogues but appealed to emotion, and prejudice, and ignorance.” She then picked up the threat and addressed the panel: “That was when we only had TV to deal with; now that we got Twitter, the internet, and cable news 24 hours a day, speed is everything! When do you decide to jump on something, and when do you decide to pull back and see what the story is going to be?”

READINESS AND SPEED

Most communications’ crises stem from a gap between what an organization perceives as a problem and what the public thinks is the problem. Ucelli believed that in those cases, speed is everything; crisis managers must be ready to communicate when necessary and be aware of what is going on around them.

MONITORING IS BREAD AND BUTTER

Social media are vital in identifying a developing crisis and have broadened crisis communications. Leggett-Flynn believes that many companies don’t have the tools to take necessary steps, however. Cohen added that there are more voices today than a decade or two ago and that now, “monitoring is bread and butter.”

HERE TODAY, TWEETED AWAY TOMORROW

Twitter users are mostly in their 30s and 40s, while CEOs and company heads are usually older. Temin sees a lot of confusion among managers on the reality of blogs and tweets, given that many celebrities often hire people to tweet for them. “Tweets may be here today — and tweeted away tomorrow.”

TRANSPARENCY, RESPONSIBILITY AND REPUTATION

Communicators face challenges when putting aside personal feelings about a particular corporation, when asked to restore their company’s or client’s reputation. Leggett-Flynn believes that many communicators function as legal representatives. “In media, you’re either evil or a hero; gray areas don’t play well.”

THE DOT AT THE END OF THE SENTENCE

While one of the main elements in crisis management is developing the facts and putting them out fast, Ucelli stressed communicators must know how to end the sentence quickly in almost any crisis situation. Temin shared an experience, where a communications manager and former journalist kept on answering questions when the right strategy would have been to simply say it once and leave it at that.

BRIDGE THE GAPS, CONTROL THE DAMAGE

After Nickelodeon’s failure to address the domestic abuse charges against Chris Brown, many parents wanted to know why the station hadn’t disqualified the singer from its Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. “If Nickelodeon had participated in a public conversation rather than simply wait for Brown to pull out, that would have helped [its] reputation,” explained Cohen.

Q & A HIGHLIGHT

On the failing auto industry, Bernard Madoff, Bear Sterns, AIG and Rod Blagojevich, the consensus was that the car makers committed the biggest blunders in their crisis communications. Ucelli believes the situation had been in their control but management had missed the target for years. “The inability to produce a car that Americans would be driving and the big public relations incident on Capital Hill, didn’t work,” Ucelli concluded. “It’s so ubiquitous, so silent, nothing online,” added Cohen. And Leggett-Flynn believed that there was disconnect from reality — which, by the way, goes for most of those on the list.

written by Gloria Buono Daly

as appeared on NYWICI.org on May 8, 2009

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