Category Archives: Crisis Communications

Sage Advice

Did you miss PRSA Houston’s April luncheon? Don’t worry. With this video, we captured a few of the sages giving career advice. Thanks, Ed Davis (PRSA Houston board member and director of communications at the United Way of Greater Houston).

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Mentoring, Professional Development, Public Relations, Uncategorized

Letterman’s Crisis Communications Options

Boston Herald Business crisis management sources “gave high marks to David Letterman’s frank on-air revelation last week of a $2 million extortion attempt that threatened to reveal the late-night talk show host’s sexual liaisons with female staff.  Letterman took control of the story by releasing the information on his own terms and portraying himself as a victim – key elements to a successful crisis communications strategy.

For anyone living under a rock, CBS News employee Robert Halderman, a producer for the real-life crime show “48 Hours,” pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree attempted grand larceny in a Manhattan court Friday and is out on bail. His blackmail attempt prompted the 62-year-old Letterman to acknowledge the sexual affairs to his studio audience and viewers during last Thursday’s “Late Show” on CBS, without specifying when they took place. In March, Letterman married Regina Lasko, his longtime girlfriend, and the couple has a 5-year-old son.

Letterman’s crisis communication options were actually much broader than to tell or not to tell. Some general image restoration strategies that he, and Worldwide Pants, had at their disposal were:

1. Denial
a. Deny the act occurred
b. Shift the blame for an act to another person or organization

2. Evasion of responsibility
a. Claims a lack of responsibility because the misdeed was a result of provocation, an accident, or committed with good intention.

3. Reduction of the offensiveness of event
a. Bolstering
b. Differentiation
c. Transcendence
d. Minimizing
e. Attacking the accuser to lessen the impact of the accusation
f. Offering to compensate the injured party

4. Corrective action
a. Restoring the state of affairs existing before the offensive action and/or promising to prevent recurrence of the offensive act

5. Mortification
a. Requires the accused to admit the wrongful act and ask forgiveness.

These courses of action are rooted in the rhetorical approach of apologizing and based on readings from Robert Heath’s Handbook of Public Relations.

Contributed by Karen Naumann Blanchard, APR, president of Naumann Blanchard, LLC , and PRSA Houston Board Member.

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Public Relations

Communicating with Employees about Swine Flu

As the swine flu outbreak continues to dominate headlines, corporate communicators are dealing with what exactly to tell employees.

With the first U.S. death from swine flu occurring at a Houston hospital, residents here may be on a heightened state of alert.

But even before this occurred, local employers had already begun to communicate with employees about the international outbreak.

We took a very informal poll of local corporate communications professionals earlier this week. Here’s a brief look at how these communicators are handling the swine flu message:

•    As with all employee communications, the messages were calm and dealt with facts, not conjecture.
•    Most either provided information from or linked directly to the CDC’s swine flu website. This authoritative site offers frequent updates on the status of the outbreak and gives practical tips on staying healthy.
•    Companies with overseas operations provided details about any travel restrictions.
•    Several companies assured employees that a crisis management plan was in place to deal with a potential outbreak and provided a link to the plan.
•    In some cases the messages came from the Human Resources department; in others, the Corporate Communications department took the lead.

Bottom line: The underlying message from major companies appears to be the same as it is in all crisis communications: The company is aware of and monitoring the situation and has preparations in place to deal with it.

Contributed by Christi Dunn, Manager of Public Relations – Dynegy

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Employee Communications