Be Prepared: What the Batman Murders, Warner Bros. and the Boy Scouts Teach Us
By Susan Tellem, Tellem Grody Public Relations
After doing PR and crisis management for 30 years, nothing surprises me anymore. Instead of assigning blame, I’m guessing the murders at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Denver could not have been prevented because it’s impossible to predict when a crazy person dressing up like one of the characters will act out in a horrifying way. The studios distributed almost cookie cutter condolence statements within hours because ultimately they are not responsible for creating what movie goers demand. That said, it’s going to be hard for the studios to get rid of the event that will be forever know as the “Batman Murders.”
On the other hand, the movie theater where the film was playing has the most to lose in this situation and should probably close its doors permanently. There will be too many bad memories and, no doubt, lawsuits in the months to follow. No amount of cleaning, refurbishing and mea culpas will fix this bad situation.
This shooting poses some interesting things to consider from a societal perspective. We criticize Fred Willard for being caught with his pants down in a movie theater watching porn, i.e., sex is bad. Yet we continue to flock to movies that portray violence without blinking an eye. There is no doubt people are influenced negatively and do evil acts while being influenced by both sex and / or violence. We can’t stop making movies just because there are a few bad apples.
The takeaway? Quoting the Boy Scouts swimming in their own crisis right now may not be politically correct, but their motto sure is. Be prepared.
Speaking on a strictly individual level, what can we do to protect ourselves in crisis situations? Do you run? Or, do you hide? Do you carry a weapon to fight back, just in case? How about taking a CPR or First Aid class so you can help people who are injured and be more prepared yourself? I was in a market where a man entered and fired a 45 handgun into the ceiling to get everyone’s attention. Make no mistake. It does. I moon walked backwards into the service elevator and escaped. But many people who have not taken self defense courses froze in one place. Be prepared.
What can companies do to reduce their crisis risks? Take this short 10 point vulnerability audit and get your businesses on a crisis prevention track now.
- Who is on your crisis team? (Pick people who can think on their feet, are good spokespeople and have related experience – do not choose the CEO unless you have to.)
- Do you have friends in your court of you need them? This would include reporters/regulators/inspectors/politicians/police, etc.
- Do you regularly monitor possible problems that could lead to a crisis like employee relationships, safety issues, confidentiality issues or termination problems?
- Do you have a written book of company policies?
- Do you have a list of emergency numbers/cell phones to be able to reach managers/owners at a second’s notice?
- Who is your spokesperson (and backup) if something negative happens?
- How do you handle belligerent employees? What about employees who have been terminated – is there a management plan if they enter the building for any reason/
- How do you handle sexual harassment accusations?
- Are you familiar with emergency response teams in your area?
- When was the last time that you had an emergency evacuation drill?
Susan Tellem, APR, RN, BSN is a partner in Tellem Grody Public Relations, Inc. where she leads the crisis team. She also has served on crisis management teams at Burson Marsteller and the Rowland Company. Follow her on Twitter @susantellem.