Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach

Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach

Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach

Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach


No company, organization, or individual whose livelihood depends on public reaction can afford to function without a crisis management/communications plan. Yet, many large fully-staffed corporations still have no such plans. Management and public relations in these companies are likely to say they acknowledge the need for such a plan; however, they either lack the manpower or the expertise to develop a crisis plan. So, they think positively and hope that the inevitable will never occur until the economy improves and they can hire someone with crisis planning expertise.

Various public relations and crisis communication theories suggest attributes and characteristics of programs that are likely either to prevent crises or enable organizations to recover from crises more swiftly than organizations without those characteristics. In fact, negative thinking is the appropriate stance in crisis management. This book shows that if an organization's leaders think and plan for the worst case scenario, they will come out of a crisis in better condition than they would otherwise. It shows individuals how to prepare themselves and their organizations to cope with crises that may occur, and offers strategies and tactics to be used during a crisis. It provides this information via examinations of the experiences of public relations professionals in crises -- what they did, what they wished they had done, and what hampered their progress.

This volume of case studies demonstrates problems that can turn into crises, and crises, if not handled effectively, that can become catastrophes. The chapters include:

• descriptions of the skills needed to communicate effectively in a crisis;

• a how-to manual on developing and implementing a crisis communication plan;

• some causes of crises -- rumor, sensationalized and irresponsible news coverage, and the non-expert expert;

• tips on how to work with -- rather than in conflict with -- the media and lawyers; and

• narrated case studies of how public relations professionals used communication in several kinds of crises.


"I experience a crisis every day." That's a declaration made by numerous public relations professionals. Pity those who actually do. Even organizations that thrive on disasters, conflicts, tragedies--like the American Red Cross, fire departments, police departments, and child abuse agencies--are not necessarily organizations in crisis. Their ordinary tasks are other people's crises.

This volume presents case studies of problems that can turn into crises, and crises, if not handled effectively, that can become catastrophes.

Cases included in public relations (PR) textbooks are frequently written in the formats of public relations campaign plans. Particularly popular are the plans in which the steps of the campaign are abbreviated by the acronyms RACE or ROPE. RACE, for some, stands for Research, Action, Communication, Evaluation. Others make the "A" in RACE stand for Adaptation. ROPE stands for Research, Objectives, Program, Evaluation. The formulas are a process of management by objectives (MBO), a system that focuses on desired results rather than performance activities.

I do not argue the value of such systems in public relations planning. Nevertheless, in a crisis, an organization is frequently forced to perform the third step--which is Communication in RACE or Program in ROPE--without having gone through the other steps.

A crisis, by definition, presents a great deal of uncertainty and immediacy. You, the PR professional, may not make the decision of when to take action . . .

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