Source: Chicago Tribune
The stories involving Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain
concerning allegations of sexual harrassment are falling into a predictable pattern. They also provide a lesson or two on crisis communications
First, Cain was on the defensive, saying he was falsely accused. Later, in a series of media interviews, Cain offered shifting accounts of what he says happened while he was president of the National Restaurant Association. He also said at first that he knew nothing about any settlements with his two female accusers, then said one of the cases may have been for two or three months' salary.
Source: Chicago Tribune
The sudden announcement from Apple that Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO is a stark reminder that companies and organizations need to have a media relations plan for the bad news everyone knows is coming, but are not sure just when.
Jobs has been ill for some time, and had taken a medical leave in January. With Jobs and Apple so interconnected, the news that he's relinquinshing daily control of the firm he co-founded in his parents' garage back in 1976 sent Apple shares plummeting.
When difficult circumstances affect a firm's public image and persona, it's essential to have the tough conversations behind the scenes early on about what will be said from a crisis communications and public relations standpoint. In the case of Apple, it was a brief statement released late in the day.
Washington's deficit drama has ended with both sides rushing right up to the deadline before reaching a deal.
The battle over raising the nation's debt ceiling emphasizes why it's important to frame an issue in your own terms and from your own perspective.
Image: Chicago Tribune
One of the first rules of effective public relations and media relations, especially when it comes to crisis communications, is to have a consistent message. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page recently pointed out the problems the U.S. government encountered after the death of Osama bin Laden.
With various versions of the raid on bin Laden's compound contradicting each other, Page notes
: "Just as Americans are feeling really good about our military capabilities and the success of courageous SEAL Team Six, we’re brought down to the earth by the inability of the Pentagon and the administration to get the bin Laden story straight. Don’t be shocked if the narrative changes again."
The problem is that in the chaos that follows breaking news, there is a tendency to speak before all the facts are known or to try to hide the bad news while emphasizing the good news. The hope is that no one will really notice if the truth gets shaded just a bit. That's a dangerous policy. Why?
Southwest Airlines' Press Room
Crisis Communications is more of an art than a science, because each crisis is unique. But there are general rules for responding to a crisis that really don't change.
Take Southwest Airlines, which has had to cancel hundreds of flights after a hole opened in one of its plane's fuselage during flight. As investigators check Southwest's fleet, the airline has posted several press releases on its site and has updated its Twitter and Facebook pages multiple times since the crisis began.
It's a vivid reminder of why it's important to have a clearly defined press room on your web site. The ability to post even quick updates helps you to get important information to the media and the public. The story also reminds us of the value of social media to communicate directly with customers or, in the case of Southwest, passengers.