Expert Crisis Communications & Crisis Management Begin with Managing Expectations

Expert Crisis Communications & Crisis Management Begin with Managing Expectations - Gerard BraudGerard Braud

As the flooding disaster in Houston continues from Hurricane Harvey, and as I look back today, August 29th, on the 12th anniversary of my own experience with Hurricane Katrina, one element of crisis communications, crisis management, and disaster management looms heavy: Manage the expectations of your audience.

In the case of Houston, managing the expectations of your citizens before disaster strikes.

Numerous news reports are focusing on whether Mayor Sylvester Turner should have called a mandatory evacuation. I would raise a different crisis issue: Did Mayor Sylvester Turner fail to manage the expectation of his citizens? Did he fail to tell them the trauma they would experience if they failed to voluntarily evacuate?

Powerful communications and rapid communications before a crisis has the power to move people out of harms way.

A community does not need to spend millions of dollars and hours on rescues if you move people out of harms way in advance of the storm.

The National Weather Service clearly predicted 40 inches or rain. A mandatory evacuation was not necessary, but more forceful communications about the impending danger and the need for an aggressive voluntary evacuation was needed.

In 1985 I started chasing hurricanes as a television reporter. In every hurricane and associated flood, humans immediately regret not evacuating and they are consistently in need of the same creature comforts: water, ice, and electricity.

Life and death are legitimate concerns for those close to the eye of a hurricane. But for most people, the way to appeal to them is to explain the misery they will experience. This is called managing their expectations.

Believe it or not, the fear of death doesn’t frighten people enough. However, making them afraid of the misery they will live through can motivate them. (At the risk of sounding sexist, men especially think they can survive even the worst storm. I’ve interviewed many who lived to tell the story and the story they tell is that they were stupid to try to ride out the storm because of the misery they lived through.)

Motivating people to leave before a storm is an art form that frankly, I do not see politicians and elected officials learning, despite so many case studies, including Hurricane Katrina.

Millions of dollars and millions of hours do not have to be spent on rescue efforts if there is no one to rescue because you have successfully motivated people to leave by explicitly describing their future human misery.

Exhibit A: A television news report I aired in 1990. Fifteen years before Hurricane Katrina, the report explained the pain, problem, and predicament the New Orleans metro area would face.

Officials in every parish in the area, except New Orleans, ordered timely, mandatory evacuations. Their residents were responsive. New Orleans, however, had a mayor who dropped the ball. He showed no concern when he needed to, and thousands died, while tens of thousands were stranded in their flooded homes. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on rescue efforts required because people were not strongly encouraged to evacuate in a timely manner.

Here are some things I would have encouraged the mayors of Houston or New Orleans to say:

  • “Your life could get very miserable, very fast. You could be trapped in your home, with your children, with elderly family members, with sick family members. This is not something you want to do.
  • If you stay, expect water to possibly enter your home without warning. Expect it first to ruin your floors. It will continue to rise and ruin all of your belongings on the ground floor of your house. For some of you, it will overtake your second floor as well.
  • You won’t really be able to save your personal belongings. You will be too busy wondering if you can save your own life and the lives of your family members as they panic and cry in terror.
  • You’ll likely live through it, but you might be standing in water up to your chest.
  • Your neighborhood may have never flooded before. But it very well might flood this time. No two storms are alike. Do not think you will stay dry because you have not flooded in the past.
  • Your neighborhood may be lucky and not flood, but your neighborhood may be surrounded by floodwaters without creature comforts.
  • You will be trapped, without electricity in the hot August heat.
  • Your water supply might likely become contaminated and unfit to drink.
  • Your toilets and plumbing may not work. They might even overflow into your home.
  • You may run out of food.
  • You may run out of water.
  • Your cell phone may not work.
  • You may need emergency help and no one will be able to come for you.
  • If you are willing to endure what might be great trauma, then stay. However, if you are wise and if you recognize the suffering that awaits you and your family, you should voluntarily leave now. 
  • Millions of people who have stayed behind in storms, only to regret their decision, would tell you just as I am telling you, a voluntary evacuation now is the smartest decision you could make.”

Regardless of whether your community is facing a hurricane, a tornado threat, a blizzard, an ice storm, or any of the many predictable disasters, moving people out of harm’s way is much smarter than dealing with the crisis of responding and rescuing people.

Be an expert in crisis communications and disaster management: Manage the expectations of your citizens.


About the Author: Crisis communications expert Gerard Braud, CSP, IEC has been the go-to expert for organizations on five continents for nearly 25 years. He shares his passion for effective communications through his keynote speeches at conferences and conventions, as well as by helping organizations write an effective crisis communications plan. Additionally, he media trains spokespeople around the world. Braud began his career in journalism in 1979. During his 15 year career on television, you may have seen him on CNN, NBC, CBS, The BBC or The Weather Channel. In 1994 he left television to venture out into the world of public relations. This video will help you get to know him better.  

#Ransomware – Crisis Communications Management Steps for Impacted Companies

#Ransomware – Strategic Communications Steps for Impacted CompaniesMike Shultz, Chief Executive Officer, Co-Founder, Cybernance  

On Friday, May 12, ransomware cyber attackers indiscriminately attacked state agencies and enterprises all over the world. As the ransomware virus spread through company networks, putting valuable company and customer data at risk and stalling operations for many, organizations were going into crisis mode. It’s pertinent that a crisis communications plan include protocols for cyber attacks, as these are becoming increasingly common.

For companies who were impacted by Friday’s global cyber attack, the following are important steps for ensuring your key stakeholders remain confident and calm in your company’s ability to remediate the damages.

  1. Act quickly and accurately. In order to stay in control of your story, know what the facts are and stick to them. You need to quickly retain control of your processes and information and ensure that each line of business is aware of the crisis plan, and is sending all status updates and problems to the appropriate channels.
  1. Break the story before media does. Own up to the issue with as much accurate information as you have at the time. Understand the size and scope of the problem before making any definitive statements. If you report inaccurate numbers—such as number of customer accounts breached—you run the risk of having to backtrack on previous statements and admit the problem was worse than expected. Maintaining that you’ll share the accurate figures upon analysis of the scope of the incident in the face of tough questions from media will be more beneficial for you and all stakeholders in the end.
  1. Assign your crisis spokesperson.The spokesperson for a cyber attack crisis should be both technically knowledgeable and an authority figure in the business. Top leadership should take the responsibility to address the issues at hand. If your spokesperson is the CEO, ensure she or he is able to speak accurately and intelligently about the technical details. You wouldn’t want your spokesperson to lose credibility by accidentally misstating factual elements of the event. People need to know that top leadership is in control and command of the situation.
  1. Be fast and unwaveringly clear about the remediation steps.Your company must be accountable—leaders in every department included—to the company plan for remediation. Data loss is not only harmful and expensive, it’s becoming increasingly less acceptable by the public, and you must do everything possible to remediate the damanges of data loss and interruptions to business continuity. Ensure that you’re being uprfront and clear about what your company is doing, here, so your key stakeholders can rest assured their data is in good hands. Customers and people are number one priority.
  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.Monitor the situation every step of the way. Communicate about what is going as planned. Communicate the good news AND the bad. Don’t attempt to conceal information, and don’t sugar coat a bad situation. People are not going to react well to anything but the truth.
  1. Summarize.When the crisis has been managed, be sure to hold a leadership debrief to review the crisis plan and how the company fared. This is the time to make amendments to the plan, and to reinforce what worked and what didn’t. If needed, share a high-level summary with your stakeholders so they can rest assured the company is in good hands.


About the Author: Mike drives Cybernance’s strategic vision and directly oversees finance, sales, and operations. As CEO of cybersecurity firm Infoglide Software, he led it to a successful acquisition by FICO in 2013. Under his direction, Infoglide was named to the Inc. 500 twice to Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 and Software Magazine’s Software 500 three times. Mike was formerly founder and CEO of QuestLink Technology, where he structured $26.5 million in equity financing and eventually provided a successful financial event for the shareholders by negotiating a merger with eChips, Inc. Before QuestLink, he was CEO of CMG Computer Products, a manufacturer of notebook peripherals and software, and CEO of Specialty Development Corporation, a developer and marketer of high-performance integrated circuits and software applications. He has also held executive sales and marketing management positions at Philips Semiconductor and Wyle Electronics and was part of the founding management team at both Cirrus Logic and Integrated Device Technology, setting the sales strategy that contributed to successful IPOs for both companies. In June 2004, Mr. Shultz was awarded the Ernst & Young 2004 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and he accepted the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s 2002 Business Award for Innovative Business. He is a frequent guest speaker at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Fox News Followed The Money In Firing O’Reilly – And Failed Crisis Communications Test

Tom FladungThom Fladung, Vice President, Hennes Communications

The axe that hovered for weeks finally fell as 21st Century Fox announced that Bill O’Reilly would not be returning to Fox News Channel, the cable news outlet O’Reilly helped build, in the wake of a string of explosive sexual harassment claims, broken by the New York Times.

Here’s what didn’t happen:

Fox didn’t apologize or even attempt to distance itself from O’Reilly. Indeed, an internal memo sent to Fox News Channel employees called O’Reilly “one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news.” The memo added: “In fact, his success by any measure is indisputable.”

O’Reilly didn’t apologize. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.” He called Fox “the dominant news network in television” adding “I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”

As divorces go, this wasn’t amiable. This was a love-in.

So, what happened? Economics happened.

An April 1 article by the New York Times broke the news that Fox and O’Reilly had reached settlements totaling about $13 million with five women who complained about sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior by O’Reilly.

The $13 million apparently was chump change. Fox made no move on O’Reilly as those claims and settlements played out.

But then as the Times reported, since that initial April 1 story “more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups had called for him to be fired. Inside the company, women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on ‘trust and respect,’ as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal led to the ouster of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.”

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi further pointed out that beyond the advertising boycotts, the “O’Reilly controversy has been casting a shadow over 21st Century’s $14 billion bid to win the British government’s approval to buy Sky TV, the British satellite service. Leaving O’Reilly in place would likely have been a public-relations nightmare for James and Lachlan Murdoch, the sons who head 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent.”

So, as they said in “The Godfather,” it wasn’t personal. It was business.

And 21st Century Fox won’t be the last company to finally and reluctantly “do the right thing” that people are calling for because business dictates it. But let’s consider how Fox ignored some basic precepts of effective crisis communications and crisis management – and how Fox might still pay for that:

Don’t deny the obvious. Fox cut ties with O’Reilly only because of the business pressures. And we all know it – or they would have cut the cord with him long ago. Fox ignored that fact in its short public statement.
Tell the truth. And tell it all. See the above.

Worry most about your key stakeholders. In this case, I would argue, it’s the employees who continue to work at Fox News. They want to do a good job. And they want to be proud of their employer. Every employee does. Think they’re concerned about the atmosphere in their workplace? And how do you think they felt when they got an internal memo heaping praise on O’Reilly?

Plus, Fox News is just that – a news business. A business employing a lot of people who should be dedicated to ferreting out the truth and digging for the whole story. That business should have an even higher standard of fessing up after messing up.

What’s the immediate damage? Very little, if any. O’Reilly can get another job on cable news if he wants one. Suitors already are lining up, as CNN Money is reporting. O’Reilly’s book publisher, Henry Holt, said almost immediately that “our plans have not changed.” As Reuters reported, shares of 21st Century Fox ended Wednesday’s trading on the Nasdaq down less than 1 percent. Analysts say the network’s viewers would likely remain loyal.

Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research, told Reuters, in regard to the loss of “The O’Reilly Factor”: “They could literally go dark during the time his program airs and they would still be profitable.”

But this story is not over. Organizations can mishandle crisis communications and crisis management and bear no short-term penalty. Think again, though, about those employees and what Fox News now symbolizes as a workplace.

And think about how businesses and organizations, like fish, rot from the inside.


About the Author: Thom Fladung is vice president of Hennes Communications, one of the few firms in the U.S. focused exclusively on crisis management and communications. Fladung’s a 33-year news veteran, including serving as managing editor of the Detroit Free Press, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, the Akron Beacon Journal and St. Paul Pioneer-Press.

United Airline’s Flawed Apology: Lessons in Crisis Communications

Time to Stop Unselling-Crisis Communications Tip for United AirlinesGerard Braud

So which of the three statements issued by United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz should we believe?

Monday he said, “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

United Airlines Response

Later on Monday in a statement to employees he said, “While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.” He went on to say, about the man dragged off of the flight, “Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.”

Oscar to employees


Or do we believe the Tuesday statement that says, “The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.” He goes on to say, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”


United Apology Statement

Yes, but it’s never too soon to do the right thing either.

As one who has sat in public relations war rooms on five continents, I’m constantly amazed that big companies constantly make predictable bad decisions based on out-of-date public relations standards and failed crisis communications strategies, often supervised by a team of lawyers who do not want to ever use the word “apology” out of fear of giving ammunition to the plaintiff’s attorney.

Here are four lessons you should consider to be a crisis communications expert:

Lesson #1: Never make one statement to the public and another to your employees. All audiences should always get the same statement. The incongruencies in your statements will always be released to the public by an employee. I’ve said this a thousand times to clients and to conference audiences around the world and I’ll keep saying it.

Lesson #2: Your corporate response must move at the speed of Twitter. If it takes two days to get as outraged as the Twittersphere got in a matter of seconds, then you don’t understand modern crisis communications. I have more than 300 pre-written news releases on my laptop that are lawyer approved and ready to use in seconds. On average it takes 10 minutes for me to edit one.

Lesson #3: If you could attach a dollar value to your words and actions in a crisis, would you make money or lose money? United is losing. The stock is crashing. The cynic in me wonders if Munoz would have foregone the Tuesday statement if it were not for the outraged world screaming advice in dollar signs.

Lesson  #4: Parse your words until they are cynic-proof. Let’s break down the words parsed in the statements from United and let us add a cynic’s view. On Monday he said, “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

The cynic reads this as saying, “We needed to get four of our employees somewhere and they are more important than you are, even if we have to call the cops to drag you out of your seat.”

Later he said to employees, “I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.” The cynic reads, “You showed our customers who is boss. Keep up the good work. Follow the rules written to benefit us, regardless of who gets hurt.”

He went on to tell employees, “Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.” The cynic looks at the video and clearly sees that the customer dragged from the plane was in no way treated with respect or dignity.

The Tuesday statement says, “The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment.” The cynic thinks, we all got that feeling 48 hours ago. Why did it take you two days to feel the same way?

Somewhere at United there is a room full of executives, PR folks, PR agency people, and lawyers. Do you think any one of them should get to keep their job after how they have mismanaged this in the past 48 hours?

The key to crisis communications is to take the steps and to make the decisions on a clear sunny day, about how you will respond to the many things that can happen on your darkest day. Yet most organizations are too focused on bringing in money to discuss the methods they should use to keep the money from gushing out the door when they screw up.


About the Author: Crisis communications expert Gerard Braud, CSP, IEC has been the go-to expert for organizations on five continents for nearly 25 years. He shares his passion for effective communications through his keynote speeches at conferences and conventions, as well as by helping organizations write an effective crisis communications plan. Additionally, he media trains spokespeople around the world. Braud began his career in journalism in 1979. During his 15 year career on television, you may have seen him on CNN, NBC, CBS, The BBC or The Weather Channel. In 1994 he left television to venture out into the world of public relations. This video will help you get to know him better. 

United Airlines – Crisis Communication Management Lessons

David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group  

United Airlines continues to generate bad publicity days after a man was violently dragged off a Chicago, IL to Louisville, KY flight due to the flight being overbooked and room being needed for 4 flight crew.  The entire incident was filmed by other passengers with their smartphones.  The man was bloodied as he was dragged on the floor from his seat.  Compounding the damage was the tone deaf response from the airline, particularly its CEO, Oscar Munoz, to the incident.  The entire story provides several lessons that business leaders can learn from and apply during a crisis.

  1. The CEO of the company is the public face of the company and his or her words reflect on the entire company. Following the incident and the ensuing media coverage, United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement merely apologizing for any inconvenience passengers may have experienced but never addressing the specific incident nor apologizing to the passenger directly.  That statement alone was viewed as insensitive but then Munoz added to the media firestorm by sending a letter to United employees praising them for how they handled the situation and labeling the passenger as belligerent despite video contradicting this accusation.  Munoz’s statements became the public face of United Airlines and has drawn condemnation and ridicule from the media, the public, and Hollywood.  It has angered the Chinese market (the passenger was Chinese) which is United’s key growth market and driven down the airline’s stock by over a billion dollars.    Munoz came across as uncaring in his response and as a result all of United is now perceived that way.
  2. Apologies Matter (and how they are worded even more). What should have been a one day media story has now been spread across several days and counting, due to Munoz’s lack of apology.  If Munoz had offered a strong apology for what happened and condemned the actions, the media would be moving on by now.  Rather by failing to issue a strongly worded apology and blaming the passenger, Munoz has kept the story alive in the media causing more days of bad press for United.  His response has become a bigger story than the original incident and is overshadowing the original report.
  3. Everything can be recorded with a smartphone. Think of any television show (Chicago PD, Law & Order SVU, Chicago Justice, The Catch) where the police make an arrest or rough up a suspect and all of the bystanders are recording it with their phones. This isn’t just the stuff of Hollywood, it happens every day.  Part of the reason this story got the amount of play that it has (besides United’s poor crisis management) is that fellow passengers were able to video the entire incident with their smartphones.  The video images brought to life the episode in a powerful, emotional, and impactful way and created a readymade story for the media.  People often forget anytime an incident happens people begin recording with their smartphones.  Every occurence is now just not reported upon but has video accompanying it due to bystanders recording it.
  4. Social media drives narratives. This point cannot be stated enough.  Social media is driving this story with the hashtag being #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos (#NeedCrisisManagement should be United’s hashtag in this crisis). The result is the traditional media is reporting on the social media outrage.

United Airlines serves as a lesson on what not to do during a crisis.  Hopefully other companies will learn from United’s mistakes.


 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

#7 MOST-READ in 2017: Time to Stop Unselling: Crisis Communications Tip for United Airlines

Gerard Braud

Are you constantly amazed by how companies unsell you as a customer? Think about the millions of dollars spent and hours invested trying to get you to buy. Then in a heartbeat, they unsell you. When will companies learn to Stop Unselling?

United Airlines had done just that with the video of the doctor being dragged off of an overbooked flight. The impact is compounded by the recent news story about passengers who were denied boarding because they were wearing leggings. That’s two strikes United.

Just for fun, do a Google search for United Airlines and witness how the negative news stories have pushed the airline’s own SEO optimized site out of first place.


Then peek at Twitter, to see the field day of negative comments from people who are actively being unsold by United.


The one piece of expert crisis communications advice every company should know is that if your rules favor the company more than they favor the customer, you will eventually unsell your customers.

The incident happened Sunday and began making the news Monday. By the Tuesday news cycle less than 48 hours after the incident, Marketwire reports a 6% fall in the company’s stock, wiping out $1.4 billion dollars in market cap. Even more frightening than the financial loss is that we have to even wonder if that matters to a company with a $22 billion dollar cap? Will they even care?

Will you fly United again? How many people since seeing this video have made a conscious effort to not fly United and are buying their tickets on any other airline?

United has been on my do not fly list for more than ten years after one of their red-coated gate managers removed me, my wife, and two daughters from a flight to Belize, ruining our summer vacation and never compensating us. United repeatedly gave us flawed information about our travel documents before and during the trip. Finally seconds before the door closed we were told to remove our bags and exit the flight. I solved my problem with a single phone call to customs agents in Belize who gave us the green light to fly. It was something United could have done, but didn’t.

United unsold me. On an annual basis, I spend about $50,000 for airline tickets and most of it is spent with Southwest Airlines. Not only has United unsold me, but so has Delta and American because of various acts in which they treated me like a second-class citizen by putting their interests and rules above my rights as a customer.

I’m not sure if we will be able to measure how many passengers right now are selecting flights on other airlines because they saw the video of the doctor being dragged down the aisle.

My fear is that there are actuaries in companies like United who will say that the stock drop and the loss of ticket sales are within the acceptable spectrum of doing business.

Relative Ad Value

In public relations, experts love to measure the relative ad value of positive news. It is based on the idea that your time in a news story is worth three times the value of you having bought an ad in that same media. I can’t wait for an expert to run the data and tell us the negative, unselling effect of this news story.

And what about social media and the comment sections on web-based news sites? What is the negative ad value of that?

Stop Unselling

The bottom line is that corporations make stupid decisions every day. United Airlines is the poster child today.

Dear United Airlines,

Stop Unselling.


Your former passenger Gerard Braud


About the Author: Crisis communications expert Gerard Braud, CSP, IEC has been the go-to expert for organizations on five continents for nearly 25 years. He shares his passion for effective communications through his keynote speeches at conferences and conventions, as well as by helping organizations write an effective crisis communications plan. Additionally, he media trains spokespeople around the world. Braud began his career in journalism in 1979. During his 15 year career on television, you may have seen him on CNN, NBC, CBS, The BBC or The Weather Channel. In 1994 he left television to venture out into the world of public relations. This video will help you get to know him better. 

Three Simple Crisis Communications Rules to Live By (PwC Just Followed The Playbook)

simon-lockeSimon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO, CommunicationsMatch

During more than two decades as a corporate communications leader at major financial services firms around the world, I developed a simple set of rules that have served as my guide to managing through crises and life.

The approach PwC used during the Oscars envelope gate crisis is pretty much a textbook example of the principles in action.

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that a crisis is generally the result of a business problem, not a communications problem. Fix the problem and communicate effectively and the crisis goes away.

In this context, negative coverage is not a necessarily a measure of the effectiveness of communications, but a reflection of the issue a company is dealing with. A lack of engagement with the media, adversarial response or poor messaging may well lead to a crisis becoming a communications problem.

Of course, in a crisis nothing is simple, because no two are alike. The rules I use have provided an effective framework to focus on what’s important, address the source of the crisis, and over the longer-term reduce the likelihood of a repetition.

They are as follows:

1) Identify/acknowledge the problem
2) Fix it
3) Learn (and implement) the lessons from the experience

Identify/Acknowledge The Problem

While simple in concept, this is not always easy. A plane or market crash may be the immediate issue, but ultimately it is the cause that is most important to understand. Until that is understood and addressed, it will be difficult to move beyond the crisis.

When it comes to regulatory or product issues – “corporate ego” may blind or prevent a company from identifying, or potentially more importantly, admitting the problem. When money, legal liability or reputations are on the line and corporate culture is strong, the ability to acknowledge an issue may be hard, but it is necessary. For this reason, the ability to “check your (corporate) ego at the door” in a crisis and being prepared to stand up to lawyers to do what is right are critical. Sometimes, bringing in external crisis communications consultants may be the best way to provide the dispassionate perspective and impartial guidance required.

Three Simple Crisis Communications Rules to Live By (PwC Just Followed The Playbook)In PwC’s case the issue was clear – they gave the wrong envelope to Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty and announced the wrong winner of the best picture. The company was quick to admit their error, contrite and said they would conduct an investigation.

Fix The Problem

Fixing the problem may be easier than admitting it. More-often-than-not, companies get to this point after they have seen the cost of not addressing an issue. The impact on a company’s reputation, stock price, lost business and fines are always far higher the cost of resolution.

A fix must address the underlying issue or at minimum detail a process that gets the company there. This should be a fundamental part of managing a crisis, because it addresses the core reasons why the crisis happened in the first place.

Wells Fargo is a case in point. Fraudulent sales were the result of pressures placed on employees to meet unrealistic sales goals. Firing sales staff without addressing the underlying cause (managing sales goals), made the issue far worse.

It may be tempting to take half measures or be vague – but it is always a mistake to underestimate stakeholders, clients and the public. They will see through obfuscation.

Again, returning to PwC, part of the issue was in the short period of time when the problem could have been mitigated, the people involved froze. Eventually, the problem was fixed and the right winner was announced, but the damage was done.

Learn (and implement) the lessons from the experience

Learning from crises may be obvious. In the glare of the spotlight it’s easy to focus on the short-term fix and miss the bigger picture. Afterwards, it is tempting breathe a sigh of relief and move on. This is always a mistake.

It is essential to address as far as possible both the causes of the crisis and learn any communications lessons. Communicating the steps a company will take to address the root of the problem goes a long way to rebuilding public trust and moving on. Getting sanctioned by regulators a second time or being found not to have addressed issues your company claims to have fixed, sets you up for a far worse outcome.

This is where PwC have been very effective and transparent. They shared the steps they have taken to avoid a repetition of the problem that occurred on Oscar night. The combination of acknowledging the problem, fixing it and then putting in place protocols that learn from the experience to minimize the chance of repetition are likely reasons why their relationship with the Oscars will continue. They deserve a lot of credit.

Humans are imperfect (as it technology), so it’s important to plan for crises, but even more important to respond quickly when they happen. Providing good advice to management at these moments is critical, as is, knowing when to call in experts. We have industry leaders in this area listed on CommunicationsMatch.

When things get hot, having some simple basic steps to follow can be invaluable. This can be applied in our companies, as well as in our own lives. In fact, on a personal level, these are rules I try to live and manage by.


About the Author: Simon Erskine Locke is Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM a communications-industry focused search tool that makes the process of finding PR and communications-related agencies more efficient. Search is free as is listing for qualified agencies. Watch our introductory video. With more than 4,600 U.S. and International agencies and professionals listed, CommunicationsMatch is a powerful resource for businesses seeking communications services providers with expertise in areas including: public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior Corporate Communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.

#WhiteHouse…In Search of a Strategic Crisis Communications Plan

By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Crisis Communications at the White HouseEvery presidential administration just like every business needs a strategic crisis communications plan at some point.  For the Trump Administration, the need is coming earlier than most (not even a month into the Administration).   The Administration has been beset by numerous mistakes (Michael Flynn, alternative facts, the CIA visit, the Australia phone call) that have overshadowed its successes.  So what should the Administration do in terms of crisis communications?

  1. Limit President Trump’s media exposure. One of the great powers of the presidency is the President himself.  But he has been everywhere all at once.  The Administration needs to limit his media exposure to one major event a day that coincides with the message of the day.
  2. Replace Sean Spicer as White House Press Secretary. Spicer is serving as both White House Communications Director and Press Secretary.  He has become a parody in his role as White House Press Secretary through the Saturday Night Live Melissa McCarthy portrayals and has lost some credibility with the media that he works with on a daily basis.  Retain him as White House Communications Director but bring in a respected person as Press Secretary to give the White House a fresh approach in its press dealings.
  3. Now that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has resigned, the Administration needs to replace him quickly with a well-respected individual that will command respect in the media, with the public, and policy makers.
  4. Stay on message. Too often the Administration has fallen off of its message and got caught in needless distractions.  It needs to avoids this.
  5. Refocus on its campaign pledge of tax reform, infrastructure and creating jobs.
  6. Limit the President’s Twitter use (perhaps impossible). While reaching voters it creates needless news stories for the Administration.
  7. Carefully vet all facts released. Mistaken facts or alleged false facts (Bowling Green Massacre) are doing untold damage to the Administration’s credibility.  The media is giving everything greater scrutiny so this means the Administration cannot make mistakes with facts.
  8. Have Mike Pence, Reince Preibus, and Cabinet members be the main talk show spokespersons.
  9. Avoid lashing out at critics be it judges or Saturday Night Live as that creates an unnecessary news story that the media latches on to with a fervor.
  10. Have the message of the day come through one central source, preferably the chief of staff’s office as was done in previous Administrations.

Righting course after a few difficult weeks won’t be hard for the Trump Administration.  But to do so means employing a strategic crisis communications plan.


 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

Crisis Communications Strategy in the Age of Trump

david-johnson-featuredBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Small and medium sized businesses while knowing they need a public relations strategy often do not include a crisis communications plan in that strategy.  Many of these businesses believe crisis communications plans are only for major corporations and they will never face a crisis that needs a detailed response.  In this highly polarized political climate and social media driven world nothing could be more mistaken.

Recently I was called upon to help a medium sized engineering firm that was caught in the firestorm and fallout from the feud between Donald Trump and Congressman John Lewis.  We all remember Congressman Lewis, a Civil rights icon saying he would not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration as he did not see Trump as a “legitimate president” and Trump’s Twitter response.  Partisans on both sides jumped into the fray.  One who did so was a county commissioner in Gwinnett County, Georgia who posted on his personal Facebook page a post claiming that Congressman Lewis was a “racist pig” among other things.  Of course nothing goes unnoticed on social media and soon the traditional media was involved.  Most of the media was focused on the commissioner and his fellow commissioners as he was an elected official.  He also is a contract employee with an engineering firm.  There was no major viral footprint linking him to the company.  One industrious blogger however found the connection and began broadcasting the fact to his followers and the media.  This company has extensive contracts with local municipalities and is actually minority owned.  It was totally unprepared and unaware of the firestorm that was to erupt.

The first sign of trouble was when the company began receiving phone calls from the public demanding to know how they could employ such a person and threatening demonstrations outside of its office.  Soon their social media sites were under attack by people posting comments attacking the company for ever having employed such a person.  This was soon followed by media phone calls.  Employees knew something was happening but not sure what was happening nor what the company was doing.  The company had no basic crisis communications plan to deal with any of this and lost a news cycle.

Crisis Communications Strategy in the Age of TrumpAddressing this crisis was a top priority and one that any sized company should learn from.  Among the items instituted were:

  1. Determining a company spokesperson.
  2. Developing a social media response for the negative posts.
  3. Informing employees what was going on and how the company was responding, as well as how they should handle any inquiries they might receive and who to refer it too.
  4. Developing a social media policy for company employees (remember what employees post on their personal pages reflect upon the company and can become the basis of a crisis).
  5. Developing a formal response to media inquiries that included condemning the post and hand delivering an apology to Congressman Lewis.
  6. Informing clients and vendors of what was going on and how the company was responding.
  7. Announcing that the company was conducting another sensitivity class for all employees.

As quickly as the firestorm had erupted it died down.  In fact the company began earning praise by addressing the issue and issuing an apology.  While the story continued to dominate headlines, the company was no longer mentioned or a part of the narrative.

So yes, small and medium sized businesses, when you develop your public relations strategy, you need to include a basic crisis communications plan as part of that strategy.  In this day and age with social media and polarization, the chances of a crisis hitting a company regardless of size increases daily.  If a company ignores that, they do it at their own peril.


 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

#2 MOST-READ REPORT in 2017: How To Build A World-Class Crisis Communications Playbook

How To Build A World-Class Crisis Communications PlaybookThere’s only one thing smarter than reading our guide during a crisis.

Reading it before a crisis.

Sooner or later, most companies are blindsided by a crisis. So it’s never too early to prepare for the many challenges that come with it.  Introducing Nasdaq’s new guide on building a Crisis Communication Playbook. It spells out the do’s and don’ts of managing a crisis and the many ways to avoid one in the first place. There’s an entire section on the importance of social media as a preventive measure. As well as chapters on how to build an incident response team, and creating contact lists and message templates.

Throughout the guide are checklists of tips—many of which would never occur to most businesses. Crisis management experts share practical advice on everything from media training for executives to crisis fire drills. Download “How to Build a World-Class Crisis Communications Playbook” today. A little foresight today can make the road a lot smoother tomorrow.

Learn how to:

  • Build a strong crisis response team
  • Prepare contact lists and messaging templates
  • Use social media to prevent fires
  • Evaluate how well you managed the crisis

Download your copy of the guide now.

A PR Perspective: Where is Trump’s Crisis Communications Plan?

david-johnson-featuredBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is in free fall due to accusation after accusation of past sexual misconduct by the candidate and no small part his abysmal crisis communications response.  He is headed towards a landslide defeat and becoming something he hates – a loser unless he changes his crisis communications strategy.  That is if he really wants to be elected president or save some of his brand appeal with mainstream America.  If not and this is all part of Trump’s plan to launch a conservative television network as has been alleged then his strategy is dead on.

Crisis Communications and Terror AttacksSo what should Trump do at this late date in terms of crisis communications?

  1. He has stated repeatedly that each of the accusations alleged about him is false and he will provide proof that will vindicate him. Don’t wait a second, provide the proof.  That would be the ultimate October Surprise.
  2. Apologize to Americans who have been offended by his harsh personal attacks.
  3. Cease all personal attacks against his accusers and Hillary and Bill Clinton. It takes away from the theme of his campaign and is turning voters away from him.
  4. Stop attacking fellow Republicans who have deserted him. It takes away from his message and lessens his chances of a strong Republican base vote to back him.
  5. Announce that going forth he will only give policy driven speeches and then concentrate on – the economy, Obamacare, immigration, terrorism, and cleaning up the corrupt system that so many voters disdain.
  6. Announce that if elected he will only serve one term. State that the objective of his campaign was to fix the system and he can do that in one term.  That will take the wind away from some whom claim if elected Trump would never give up power or has dictatorial ambitions.  It would be in line of Eisenhower’s vow if elected to go to Korea to view the war firsthand so he could end it in 1952.
  7. In the final debate with Hillary Clinton, avoid personal attacks and make it about policy. Emphasize that he is the agent of change that voters want while Hillary Clinton is a continuation of the broken system. He must also provide examples of how his policies will benefit Americans and also on how he has helped and advanced females rather than just saying he has a huge plan and is a friend of women.
  8. Put his money into the campaign for a non-stop targeted advertising campaign.

Will Trump do this?  Probably not, especially if he no longer cares about the presidency and is focused on starting a conservative television network.  If however he wants a shot even at this late date in winning or at least not being a landslide loser (see Alf Landon, Barry Goldwater, and George McGovern) then he needs to change communications strategies at once.  This is especially imperative if he hopes to maintain some mainstream brand appeal for the Trump brand.  The next days will be an indicator of where Trump is headed.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

Crisis Communications Management – A Trump Apology Recommendation

Editor’s Note: We asked crisis management experts how they would phrase Trump’s apology and here’s how Thomas J. Madden, TransMedia group’s CEO would do it even though he’s very upset with what he calls “Trump’s penchant for imploding.”

trump-apologyLike my opponent keeps saying it was a mistake to send hundreds of classified emails over her private server and she says she’ll never make that mistake again . . . neither will I.

My crude locker room talk years ago while I was on a show biz track and perhaps a little full of myself was so disrespectful to women. Today I’m embarrassed. It was a terrible mistake. Today I’m not that person on that audio. You can be sure I’ll never act like that as your president. Call me a late bloomer, but I’ve matured. Boy am I mature!

Not to excuse my mistakes and lewd talk in any way, shape or form, at least my mistakes didn’t rise like Hillary’s to the level of jeopardizing our national security. Fellow Americans, please forgive me. I respect women. I revere them. I hire you. I have confidence in you and now I need you, all women, to forgive me as I’m no longer the apprentice.

I’m now going for the top job in our country as I’m confident I can truly make America not only great again, but more tolerant, more decent, respectful, just and fair. Humbly, I thank you.


#TrumpTape – A Crisis Communications Strategy (Op-Ed)

david johnsonBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Donald Trump has dominated the news cycle leading to into the second presidential debate (what else is new). Yet, not in the way he wants.  A tape surfaced of Trump describing his pursuit of women in lewd and assaulting terms from 2005 — “I don’t even wait,” he bragged about groping a woman’s genitals. Trump issued an apology of sorts that also fired shots at Bill Clinton’s sex life.  If Trump thought that was going to end the controversy, he needs to think again.  Rather, his campaign is on life support with key Republicans basically telling him – “he’s fired.  The number of Republicans who say they will not vote for him but rather write in a name grows by the hour.  Governor Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate will not firmly back him, condemning Trump’s remarks.  Hillary Clinton has maintained a reserved silence.

Is this the end of the Trump campaign?  Very probably it is.  He is no longer facing the possibility of losing in a narrow election at this point but rather in an electoral landslide similar to Alf Landon’s defeat to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 or George McGovern’s in 1972 to Richard Nixon.  What should he do if he maintains that he will not withdraw?  What should the Republican Party do?

#TrumpTape and Crisis CommunicationsTrump has about forty-eight hours to turn this around and the odds of him doing this are long, but his strategy should be:

  1. Issue a strong, humble, heartfelt, and contrite apology showing the Donald Trump that so many say exists but has yet to surface in this campaign. In this apology he needs to avoid attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton.  The apology needs to demonstrate that he has grown from that tape and is truly a different man.  He needs to ask for forgiveness and a second chance.
  2. Have Melania and Ivanka front center attesting to how he has evolved and the good things he has done for females over the years.
  3. Have female employees and associates attest that he is a decent person and have never been put in inappropriate situations with him or faced unwanted advances by him. They also need to attest all of the good he has done.
  4. Come across in the St. Louis debate as a calm and caring person, showing contrition on past behavior. He also needs to make the debate about change and emphasize how he is the instrument of change.
  5. Invest money into his own campaign for a massive and non-stop advertising campaign that will send a solid signal that he is here to stay and putting his money where his mouth is.
  6. Sit down for an interview addressing this issue with a hostile interviewer or perhaps a prime time press conference answering everything about the tape and his behavior towards women and then refuse to answer any more questions.

This is what Donald Trump should do and the window is fast closing for him to do so.  If history is any benchmark of what he will do, he will do the opposite.  So then what should the Republican Party do if doesn’t do any of the above?

  1. Denounce and condemn Donald Trump in the strongest possible way and state categorically that he does not represent the Republican Party and the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
  2. Look for any legal way to remove him from the ticket and if so, replace him at once.
  3. Barring that cease all operations in support of Trump and focus on the rest of the ticket.
  4. Have Republican leaders do a media blitz letting voters know that Donald Trump is not a Republican and does not stand for the Republican Party.

This election cycle has been unlike any other and who knows next week it might be Hillary Clinton who is being asked to withdraw.  Regardless it is Donald Trump and Republicans now in desperate need of crisis communications.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at


Crisis Communications and Terror Attacks: It’s a Whole New PR Ballgame

Andy-Blum-headshotBy Andrew Blum

The terror actions in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota once again showed the times we live in. But they also showed that crisis communications now is almost as important as first responders in such incidents.

Each needs to be prepared to deal with a bombing or attack at a moment’s notice. This is even truer when communications teams involved are at the local, state and federal levels – and all are responding.

While some involved may not like it — historically local and federal authorities have felt their turf stomped on by each other — there needs to be a lead agency and spokesperson here. There also needs to be lots of coordination to deal with a crisis like the recent ones we had.

Even though I would give both the responders/investigators and communications teams high grades, there was some disconnect at the beginning when elected officials and police and FBI addressed the media on the central semantic question: was the bombing a criminal deliberate act, an act of terror or an incident of international terror.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, two Democrats engaged in prior political disagreements, took a different initial tone on that issue: the mayor sided with police and declined to call it terror at first; Cuomo leaned towards linking it to terror right away. That is one area where the message needs to improve.

It's a Whole New PR Ballgame Additionally, the attacks spilled over into the presidential election with Donald Trump commenting right away and Hillary Clinton waiting for more facts. They then engaged in attacks on each other over national security. Politics is the wild card in such attacks and can hijack the message.

Where the authorities and communications teams excelled was in using cell phone emergency alerts to let residents of the New York City area know they had a suspect in mind who they were looking for.

According to a story in PRWeek, the NYPD, meanwhile, used its 118 Twitter accounts to share photos of the suspect, who was captured on Monday morning, and to send the public information. This was according to Peter Donald, NYPD assistant commissioner for communication and public information, PR Week said.

While cell phone alerts and Twitter were a big help, crisis communications still comes down to PR people and planning so when an attack happens the plan can work well.

Tips for Crisis Communications and Terror Attacks

  • Just like first responders have training drills, so should communications teams.
  • Refresh your crisis plan often.
  • Give the press and public the best answers you have when you have them. A breaking event like a terror attack will always change so be prepared to provide many updates.
  • Avoid contradictory statements.
  • Use all PR and social media channels.

About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies, families and individuals, and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive PR crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms 




Crisis Communications for Government in the Digital Age

julie200By Julie Murphy, Partner & SVP, Public Relations,  Sage Communications

Whether it is a terrorist attack, political corruption, cybersecurity breach or natural disaster, the government is no stranger to crisis and the tricky communications that come along with them.  Federal and local government organizations are held to an even higher standard of ethics and transparency, given their mission and citizen-driven purpose. 

Despite the abundance of valuable guidelines for crisis communications, even the best public relations pros often come up short.  Crisis situations are highly emotional, move much faster than desired and are loaded with unpredictability. 

The pieces rarely fall into place to capture the 1980’s Tylenol textbook response that we all studied closely in college.  In the famed case, Johnson & Johnson acted immediately with full transparency to alert customers across the nation when it was discovered that some Tylenol bottles had been tampered with and poisoned.  Due to the company’s ethics, open communications, and determination to put public safety first, Johnson & Johnson gained more credibility and trust with their customers than they enjoyed before.

The digital age and ever-growing presence of social media have introduced a modern-day newsroom that operates in a minute-to-minute environment, where it’s often more important to be first than it is to be accurate.  Had Johnson & Johnson experienced this crisis today, the company would have likely experienced significantly more problems.  The news would have traveled much faster and the traditionally PR-shy company would not have likely gotten its act together ahead of public discovery.  Social media videos of tampered Tylenol bottles would have gone viral, rumors would have spread and it would have been much harder for Johnson & Johnson to make a comeback.

Social Media and the Rise of Unqualified Thought Leaders

The modern communications environment leaves public relations professionals in a much more precarious position when a crisis breaks.  One of the biggest game-changers has been the introduction of citizen journalism.  Unlike the ethics that guide traditional journalism, social media is often driven by what gets the most attention – whether it’s true or not. 

In looking through the lenses of crisis communications, it’s important to note that social media platforms tend to be extremely self-righteous and haughty environments.  This type of banter can throw even the best communications practitioners off kilter, but it is important to understand the context and act accordingly.  This is largely driven by who the naysayers are and their influence, whether there is truth behind their message, and whether a groundswell is building.

Michigan Governor Drinks Flint Water

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is one of the best examples in the recent history of terrible crisis communications.  Government leaders withheld information on the water toxicity for nearly five months before making it public, and even then did not disclose the full urgency and danger.  Deception – particularly when it comes to public health – is the fastest route to permanently ruining credibility.

While surely the traditional press would have covered this issue extensively before the digital age, citizen journalism and the social media platforms available today increased this crisis by tenfold.  Governor Rick Snyder, in attempt to assure the public that the water situation was improving, drank filtered water with local residents and posted on Twitter that he will do so for the next 30 days.  This effort was not perceived well by the citizens, where calls for imprisonment and his resignation were the tamest responses.  This was followed by demands to see his grandchildren drink the water, pictures of bathtubs filled with corroded water and much more.

Authenticity Rules

Today’s world of communications offers instant access and limitless ways to express yourself as an average citizen.  Honesty, ethics, compassion and open communications has never been more important, particularly in government where the sole mission is to serve its citizens.

 About the Author: Julie Murphy leads the Public Relations division at Sage Communications, a full service integrated marketing communications agency, and can be reached at or on Twitter @julielitzmurphy. 

#MelaniaTrump Speech – A Crisis Communications Lesson

david johnsonBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

The first night at the Republican Presidential Convention was supposed to highlight #MelaniaTrump, Donald Trump’s wife and introduce the next potential First Lady to millions of Americans.  Also it was hoped that Melania’s speech would start to soften the image of Donald Trump and allow voters a glimpse of the private man.  With polls showing many Americans have no opinion of Melania or those who do have a mostly unfavorable opinion of her, this was her moment.

Initial reaction to Melania’s speech was positive until fact checkers began showing that parts of the speech were identical to the speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008.  Accusations of plagiarism are abounding in the media drowning out all other messages.  The Trump campaign is adamant that there was no plagiarism despite even some senior Republicans saying that it was plagiarism.  Yet the Trump campaign seems to be digging in despite the negative stories and the fact it is dominating the media forcing the campaign off message.

What should the Trump campaign do?

  1. Admit that it was an error. They can blame it on a failure to fully vet the speech.
  2. Have Melania issue an apology saying that even though an aide helped her with the speech it was ultimately her fault. She should direct the apology in many ways to Michelle Obama and point out that the fact she felt those words applied to Donald shows how much loving wives have in common.
  3. Move on after the apology and refocus on message.

The cardinal rule of crisis communications is to get the crisis behind you.  The longer the Trump campaign ignores this rule, the more that their message at the convention will be sidetracked.  Businesses should pay attention to this controversy and learn the importance of getting the crisis behind you.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

SeaWorld and the Danger of Insincere Crisis Communications

carinwarnerBy Carin Warner, Founder, Warner Communications

Sea World has announced the end of their captive breeding program, which is certainly a step in the right direction. However, this announcement comes only after officials at the California Coastal Commission had already ruled against them. Therefore, the public may feel that the company is only now taking action because they are forced to do so.  Interestingly, SeaWorld had recently expanded their Orca tanks, admitting that they actually planned to breed even more Orcas.

We do appreciate that Sea World is trying to respond to the overwhelming concern by animal rights activists, and the general public, with this announcement. However, while this may appear to be a step in the right direction, in many ways it does not affect real change, and could  actually result in even more negative consumer sentiment.

Perhaps most damning is Sea World’s pledge to end the Orca show in San Diego, while saying that these changes will not be rolled out to other markets. So when you consider the fact that Orcas have a life expectancy of approximately 50 years, the reality is that the remaining whales will likely continue as “show” animals for many years to come.

From a crisis communications standpoint, there is nothing worse than being deceptive. Today’s plugged in public is very familiar with “green washing” when it comes to environmental concerns. They will see right through Sea World’s insincere actions, and the negative outcry against them could end up being even worse as a result.

If SeaWorld truly wants to win over public sentiment again they need to actually do the right thing for these vastly intelligent and social mammals. It’s amazing how often the right moral move is also the best public relations move. End the Orca show worldwide. Just stopping it in San Diego would be like Chipotle making changes only to the specific restaurants where E. Coli outbreaks occurred, and not changing their chain wide food safety procedures.

While there is debate as to whether the captive Orcas should be released into the wild, the least SeaWorld should do is re-establish the animals in coastal sanctuaries where they could experience life that resembles that found in the wild.

It is simply not enough in today’s world, with an educated and plugged in public, to issue superficial announcements. It’s not enough to just say you’re making changes.  Organizations need to lead while taking action. Anything less will receive a negative backlash from the public when seen through their scrutinizing lens.

About the Author: Carin Warner is Founder and President of Warner Communications, a nationally-recognized, world class boutique public relations/social media agency founded in 1997 dedicated to helping organizations build their brands and grow their businesses.  Carin has received numerous awards throughout her career for her work with product introductions, crisis communications and branding. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees  from The University of Pennsylvania. 


Maria Sharapova Learns New Lessons of Crisis Communications – Social Media Drives Narratives

david johnsonBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Social media drives narratives and brands react to the social media narrative.  This means that many of the old rules of crisis communications no longer apply as social media drives a crisis regardless if everything was handled correctly or not in addressing the situation with the media and key stakeholders.

We saw this happen this week with tennis star, Maria Sharapova.  Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete, admitted that she had tested positive for the recently banned drug, meldonium while doing a standard drug test at the Australian Open.  The five-time Grand Slam champion announced that she had tested positive and that she had been taking the drug for health reasons since 2006.  The drug had just recently been banned.  The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced that it was provisionally suspending Sharapova as of March 12, 2016.  From a crisis communications response, Sharapova had done everything right.  She was proactive in announcing the scandal herself rather than allowing it to be announced in the media and losing a news cycle.  Normally that would have defused the situation considerably, save for social media.

Social media, particularly Twitter exploded with attacks on Sharapova and implications that there were even darker scandals that she was hiding and hoping to avoid coming to light by her admission.  Many traditional media outlets as has become commonplace began picking up the Twitter comments and doing speculative stories on what other scandals involving the tennis great might emerge next.

Sponsors of Sharapova who have stood by stars with far worse scandals – Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and Lance Armstrong bailed from their sponsorships of her.  First Nike announced that it was suspending its relationship with her.  Porsche and TAG Heuer quickly followed suit.  Others are expected to join them.  The major reason wasn’t because of Sharapova’s admission but rather the social media outcry, particularly on Twitter.  Brands react more to social media outrage than traditional media coverage and traditional media coverage now follows social media outrage to keep a crisis alive.

This leads to the point that in crisis communications, no longer must a crisis communications strategy be developed to deal with the media and key stakeholders, now a social media policy must be included in any successful plan.  Bloggers and key influencers on Twitter and Facebook, as well as, the average person must be addressed via a clear social media policy during a crisis. If not as we are seeing a firestorm will ensure and brands will bail.  Maria Sharapova is the first but certainly not the last to fall victim to the new rules of crisis communications in the social media world of today.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

Crisis Communication Examples



Here are the best Crisis Communication Examples for Crisis communications which is a specialization within the public relations profession which is utilized in responding to threats posed to the reputation of an individual, company or organization. An important component of effective crisis communication is quick response time and an ongoing management of key message points to the public and other stakeholders who, without being properly informed, could have a negative impact on the reputation of the individual, company or organization.


There is a crisis communication case study for just about any crisis communication example imaginable. Before you find your organization in the middle of an all out crisis, it is advisable that you research relevant crisis communication case studies to prepare for an effective response. Proper and effective response to a crisis situation requires planning and forethought. Following are recent examples of crisis communication situations and how the response was handled. You will see where mistakes were made and where the situation was dealt with and how to reach a positive outcome.

Communications Best Practices: How to Anticipate & Avoid a Crisis – Richard Levick (VIDEO)

Editor’s Note: Richard Levick, Chairman and CEO of LEVICK, a crisis and public affairs-focused communications agency, shares perspective on the importance of integrity, anticipating issues and being proactive to avoid crises. He discusses the importance of risk mapping to identify potential issues and highlights the risk to PR and communications firms of not using ethical or… Learn more…

Rose McGowan And The Harvey Weinstein PR Crisis

The news of Harvey Weinstein’s meteoric fall from grace landed on the society and entertainment pages like a nuclear blast. For many in the industry, though, it appears the news wasn’t really news at all. Now, a lot of stars are coming out and saying they knew something was up with the uber-producer all along. And at…Learn more…

Crisis Communications: Where Does Chipotle Mexican Grill Go from Here?

Editor’s Note: Chipotle Mexican Grill—still reeling from an E.coli breakout across several of its restaurants that has affected nearly 500 customers—is on the hunt for new PR agency. The move comes as the fast food chain continues to struggle with how to win back consumers amid the scandal. Ronn Torossian, president-CEO of 5WPR provides a few tips on what Chipotle has to do to get back on track.

Steve Harvey’s Epic Blunder – A Crisis Communications Plan

David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLCimages

By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Comedian and television personality, Steve Harvey made the verbal blunder that is resonating around the world while hosting the Miss Universe pageant when he announced the wrong winner.  Harvey in announcing the winner of the contest announced that Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo was the winner only moments later to announce that she was first runner up and Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurzbach was the actual winner.  Compounding the blunder was the fact that Arevalo had already been crowned and had to suffer the indignity of having the crown removed.  Social media and traditional media exploded.  Conspiracy theories surfaced that it was all a plot to attract attention to the Miss Universe pageant. Learn more…

The Zika Epidemic: An Olympian Crisis

LEVICK on the Zika Crisis - featuredBy Olga DeMetri, Vice President, LEVICK

With the world’s eyes on Brazil as the summer Olympics near, the Zika outbreak poses a significant risk to the nation, its economy, and the international perception of Brazil as host country. Here is what Brazil should be doing to prepare from a crisis communications perspective.

Zika’s spread poses a significant threat not only to the lives of those in Latin America—but also to the region’s economic stake in, and reputation as host for the XXXI Olympic Games. With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring Zika a global health emergency, this disease holds the potential to spread far beyond the borders of Brazil and Colombia, the two worst affected countries. Learn more…


Very seldom is a crisis situation a short-term event. To reach the point of an actual crisis, an event has become so big and intense, that an ongoing crisis communication program is necessary to effectively deal with all the issues involved. Following are links to resources to help you build a playbook on dealing with the media, influencers, employees and other stakeholders in your organization during a time of crisis.

How To Build A World-Class Crisis Communications Playbook

How To Build A World-Class Crisis Communications Playbook

There’s only one thing smarter than reading our guide during a crisis.

Reading it before a crisis.

Sooner or later, most companies are blindsided by a crisis. So it’s never too early to prepare for the many challenges that come with it.  Introducing Nasdaq’s new guide on building a Crisis Communication Playbook. It spells out the do’s and don’ts of managing a crisis and the many ways to avoid one in the first place. There’s an entire section on the importance of social media as a preventive measure. As well as chapters on how to build an incident response team, and creating contact lists and message templates. Throughout the guide are checklists of tips—many of which would never occur to most businesses. Crisis management experts share practical advice on everything from media training for executives to crisis fire drills.  Learn more…

The Next Steps in Reputation Management for the NFL after the Ray Rice Crisis


By Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5W PR

If you need an example of how to badly manage a brand crisis, look no further than the NFL. The horrific video of Ravens running back Ray Rice abusing his fiancée in an Atlantic City casino elevator has become an unprecedented scandal. There is mounting pressure for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to resign. It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of Americans watch NFL football, so such a major blow to their reputation could be staggering. How does the league regain the public’s trust?

Stop being one step behind the news

The first rule of crisis management is to stay ahead of the media, and the NFL failed on every count. They failed to cut Rice from the Ravens until after TMZ released the full elevator video. They failed to acknowledge they had seen the entire video, then proof emerged that they received it in April.  Lern more…

Media Training Minute: Peyton Manning in Crisis Communication Mode

Mike Bako, Marketing Director at D S Simon Media, critiques the crisis communication fail by Peyton Manning and his public relations team as allegations hit the headlines of sexual assault claims dating back to his time at the University of Tennessee.

Peyton was quick to offer an outright denial of recent HGH usage claims but has been totally silent on this new lawsuit and media coverage. He needs to tell his side of the story before more harm is done to his reputation and possible future endorsement opportunities.


Don’t wait to find your organization in the middle of a crisis before you research and train yourself and your team on how to deal with the situation. Effective crisis communication requires thorough and ongoing training. We have put together several resources to help train and educate you and your team should you find yourself having to deal with a crisis situation. Preparation, planning a training for a crisis situation before it happens will serve you well when you find yourself in an actual crisis communication scenario.

WHITE PAPER: How to Plan and Manage Crisis Communication in a Social World

Cision White Paper1

Weather any crisis with a crisis communication plan.

 Crisis communication is a core component of PR. But mobile and social have changed the speed at which a crisis spreads and the necessary response. 

 What can you do to manage a crisis successfully in the digital age? Cision answers the question in its free white paper “How to Plan and Manage Crisis Communications in a Social World.”  

Learn more…


Crisis Communications – Put Yourself into a Reporter’s Mindset (On-Demand Webinar)


Webinar Overview

Think Like, Act Like, and Communicate Like a Reporter…The new normal is built around crises of all sorts being amplified by both mainstream media and social media. This exponentially increases pressure on leaders, communicators and employers to communicate more rapidly and effectively than ever before in a crisis. Are you fully prepared for crisis communications and media relations in the new normal?

Crisis communications expert Gerard Braud says the secret to adapting to the new normal is to think like a reporter, act like a reporter, and communicate like a reporter. Tragic events around the world in just the past few weeks validate his premise. Paramount to your success in the new normal is changing your mindset and your preparation strategies.  Learn more…

#DuggarScandal – Breaking the Cardinal Rules in Crisis Communications

David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLCimages

By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC

Several of the cardinal rules in crisis communications are – always have a plan and prepare for any scenario.  Yet time and again, we see organizations, brands, and celebrities forgetting those rules.  The latest example of this is the scandal involving Josh Duggar of TLC’s hit show, “19 Kids and Counting”.  When dealing with reality television, anything that can happen in real life can happen to a reality star, networks have forgotten this at their own peril.

Josh Duggar admitted last week to sexually molesting underage girls including several of his sisters.  While the admissions were shocking, they should not have been to TLC.  Such allegations about him have been around for a number of years.  The Oprah Winfrey Show was aware of these rumors and reportedly contacted a child protection hotline. Learn more…



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Media Training Minute: Peyton Manning in Crisis Communication Mode

Mike Bako, Marketing Director at D S Simon Media, critiques the crisis communication fail by Peyton Manning and his public relations team as allegations hit the headlines of sexual assault claims dating back to his time at the University of Tennessee.

Peyton was quick to offer an outright denial of recent HGH usage claims but has been totally silent on this new lawsuit and media coverage. He needs to tell his side of the story before more harm is done to his reputation and possible future endorsement opportunities.