Archive for Crisis Communications

PR Does Not Go With Pomposity

If your client gives you an astronomical budget for their PR campaign, does it make you happy?

It shouldn’t.

With increasing public scrutiny on big businesses and organizations, financial prudence and accountability is often the most important factor in keeping corporate reputation afloat. So when your client bestows a huge PR budget on the firm, it is not a blessing. Instead, such pecuniary openhandedness can augur a potential crisis that can derail the entire PR effort.

A lack of restraint on corporate PR spending can lead to a public relations fallout that may well spill over to your firm. Like the proverbial partner-in-crime, a PR budget that is perceived to be exorbitant by the publics conveys the message that the client’s firm lacks prudence and proper judgment – a surefire dealbreaker in this day and age for potential clients.

Hence, it is wise to tackle PR campaigns rather frugally in order to safeguard the reputation of both client and firm. In addition, firms should continue to put due emphasis on helping clients save money, not just spend it.

Scratching the PR Scab

Leave old wounds alone.

This adage applies as much to corporate crisis management as it does to interpersonal relationships.

When a company can’t shake off the last big disaster (example: if the CEO keeps mentioning ‘the incident’ at meetings), the effect could be insidious.

Even if it is with good intentions in mind.

I believe a company cannot be run well with some part of its drive based on fear. That aside, getting too hung up on old wounds also means that the organization will probably box itself in with regard to its environmental scanning and issues tracking processes of crisis communication.

The result? Failure to anticipate and avert crises of a different nature than the last one.

My plan to get Tiger out of the Woods

Biceps aren't only thing popping up for Tiger Woods at the moment

Golfer Tiger Woods clearly needs some rescuing before his career goes out-of-bounds for a triple bogey. As we wait for him to find his ball in the rough and get on with the game we know that the longer he takes, the worse the outcome for him and his reputation. This doesn’t take much figuring out at all.

I am sure Woods knows this too. Looking at his Twitter account, I surmise he is a rather taciturn man. Perhaps he is used to the silence of the golf course as he takes his swings. But now it is the media that is ready to take aim, and when the hordes of hungry reporters swing at him, the whole world will hear Tiger whimper like an abused cat. I love cats dearly and share great emotional attachment with them, but I don’t share quite the same sentiments for Tiger Woods. Right now, he just looks like he’s begging to be kicked. That guy needs a wake-up call.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting case for all PR practitioners and aspiring ones like me to look at. I have my own plan to pull the Tiger out of the hole he has dug for himself. Vital point to note: the more time that ticks away, the harder it will be for him to come straight out into the open without looking like a deer in the headlights – awkward and dumbstruck.

My communication strategy will focus on 3 things:

  1. Give the media a good reason to reduce the intensity of bad publicity against Woods
  2. Buy time for the taciturn Woods to speak up without fueling too much speculation in doing so
  3. Give the media a reliable source to divert them away from the rampant and random speculation

So that was the strategy, now here’s the action plan summarised in three steps:

Step 1: Find a close, high-profile family friend to open up to

Ideally, this friend knows both Mr. and Mrs. Woods well. He should ideally be a fellow pro golfer, and has a good relationship with the media and can talk to the media well, and can be seen as a approachable, good friend. Can anyone tell me who could assume this role?

Step 2: Friend talks to the media

Armed with the truth from the Woods household, he should get in touch with a reliable member of the press. Then the friend will emphasise to the reporter that it has been a difficult time for the Woods family, thank the media for their support (even though there wasn’t any), and basically try to buy time while placating the hordes of hungry journalists. Finally, the friend should promise that Tiger will come clean at a certain date. The transcript should look like this:

I am a close friend of Tiger and Elin for X years. After the incident I got to talk to both of them, a cup of nice warm coffee by the fireplace, and after meeting them I can say that I am relieved that not only are things stable, but they are moving forward and as someone who cares about Tiger and Elin, I feel happy for them and that I was there for them during this period.

Tiger would like to thank the people in the media and everyone that has shown concern for him and his family in the past few days. I know Tiger as a quiet, gentle and good-natured man who needs time to collect his thoughts before speaking to the public about a matter that is close to his heart. He has told me he wants to be outright about it and he will speak to the media soon – at a date to be determined by him and Elin. Meanwhile, the Woods family and his friends continue to seek your patience, understanding and share in your interests that Tiger’s story with regard to the incident be told in due time.

Step 3: Back to the drawing board

Now Tiger Woods has about a week, maximum two weeks to plan how he should come clean. The point is, by leveraging on a human face to communicate and connect with the media, Wood’s can buy valuable time to collect his thoughts and craft a message that necessarily builds on the good work that the friend has done. Sometimes, indirect communication is the best way to communicate, and I see this particular scenario as fitting to use such a tactic to fulfill the strategy that I have laid out.

Till Woods speaks up himself, the friend would have to continue to take some heat as the conduit between the Woods family and the media. A tricky proposition yes, but worth a try in my book.