Preparation for a Crisis

November 4, 2008

Donald Levy explores the dangers of journalists seeking to expose information that could possibly damage the reputation of a company.  He uses the hypothetical situation that popular documentary director Michael Moore makes an unexpected visit to a company demanding answers from the CEO.  If he cannot talk to the CEO, he would be more than comfortable putting the media relations person on the “hot seat” in order to get the information he needs for his documentary.

As a PR practitioner, one can be faced with many difficult decisions.  Since the reporter is unexpected, you have no statement prepared to address the problem.  You have not received permission to answer the questions that are being asked and doing so could cost the PR practitioner their job.  Avoiding the question completely or answering “no comment” only makes the company look suspicious and motivates journalists to be relentless in their search for finding damaging information.

 

The key to combating this potentially dangerous situation is preparation according to Levy.  Levy explains how the really difficult questions come from reporters who focus on how the company has taken advantage of the public or endangered them in some way.  Levy explains how the best response to negative accusations is by answering with what is referred to as a positive opposite (27).  When representing a company, the PR practitioner should explain that the organization sets out to protect its publics, not harm them. 

 It is always important to plan for the future when it comes to crisis situations.  Many problems can be solved by thinking ahead and having positive press releases, photos, video clips, or anything that can represent your company in a positive light.  Showing this type of hard evidence to journalist empowers the PR practitioner with credibility.

 

 This article helps me to understand the importance of being prepared for anything when it comes to representing your company.  To be an effective PR practitioner, one should always be thinking of hypothetical situations that could have a negative impact on the organization that is represented.  When answering questions, the PR practitioner should be fluid with responses and give the reporter not only words but physical evidence.  This preparation allows the practitioner to not only influence reporters perceptions, but it helps build valuable relationships with the various media outlets that are ultimately responsible for covering your organization.

 

 

Levy, Ronald N. (2007).  You: ready for Michael Moore.  Public Relations 

             Quarterly, Vol. 52.1 (pp.27-29)


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