Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Handling a Crisis and Coming Out on Top

Posted by Amanda Walsh

There is a great article by Jackie Kolek featured in the Public Relations Society of America’s publication, The Public Relations Strategist. The summer 2009 issue of the publication focuses on different types of crises and explores various industry case studies.

Kolek is the senior director at Peppercom and the head of Peppercom’s digital offering, PeppercomDigital. The article titled, "Managing a Crisis - and Becoming a Stronger Organization" provides some great tips.

Kolek notes that with the downturn in the global economy many organizations’ reputations have suffered. She helps to outline some important guidelines for corporate image improvement. She pulls some facts from the Reputation Institute’s Global Reputation Pulse Study released in May such as, “from 2008 to 2009, 75 percent of companies saw their reputations holding relatively steady, with changes of only plus or minus Reputation Pulse points.” This may indicate that many negative news reports were company specific and other large corporations may not have been effected as deeply as many financial institutions.

-“Run to the Crisis” When many companies were cutting staff toward the end of 2008 one company, Tesla Motors, decided to put layoff news out through the CEO, Elon Musk’s blog. The blog was a venue for honest, direct communication and allowed a specific message to be conveyed. Through the blog posts the company was hoping to cut back on false information and rumors both internally and from the media. The result was balanced news coverage and many comments were posted on the blog offering thanks for the honesty during hard times.

- “Be Transparent and AuthenticKolek uses the sport of cycling as an example. The sport has been under fire with numerous news stories about cyclists and their steroid use. One American cyclist, Jonathan Vaughters, along with Team Garmin – Slipstream came up with an idea to combat this negative reputation. In 2008, a reporter from Outside Magazine was invited to travel with the team members. A positive feature story came from the experience, changing critics’ opinions about the sport.

-“Ingrain Change into the CultureTyco International was a company in dire need of reputation management. After an accounting scandal in 2002, new company CEO, Ed Breen was determined to rescue the company. Restoring confidence back into the company was first on Breen’s To Do list. He made big changes in the accounting department by reviewing existing practices and implementing new guidelines. A new culture of responsible decision-making was created. Breen made it a point to communicate core values to all employees of every level. Just three years later, Breen was named one of Businessweek’s Best Managers of the Year!

- “Build a Strong Reputation” Some of the tips listed above will help lead you to the final result- a strong reputation. A solid foundation comes in handy if a crisis occurs.

There is a proven correlation between a strong reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations according to The Reputation Institute Global Reputation Pulse Study. The Study’s findings state that “54 percent of consumers would give the most reputable U.S. companies the benefit of the doubt in a time of crisis.” This statistic is encouraging news, especially in these economic times.

In conclusion, not only did I enjoy reading this article, but the entire PRSA publication on Crisis Communications was very interesting and thought-provoking. I wanted to pass along some of these helpful facts and tips to our readers as we are all working to make progress and enhance our businesses.

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