A primer in crisis communications

By: Rob Branch

The convention was just awesome, a lot of hustle and bustle, but the amount of information and the different realms that PR encompasses piqued my curiosity.

One of the speakers was Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications, who talked about crisis communications. He noted three reasons companies succeed or fail in a crisis.

  • Fear
  • The idea of what got you to point A will not get you to point B
  • In times of crisis, everything is inverted (meaning that if you don’t do something during a crisis, then your adversaries will take control of your market)

Levick used the example of AIG’s failure to demonstrate. AIG’s staff was working 24/7, eating meals at work and spending far more than eight hours on the job. One day, the CEO decided to go out for lunch, and on her way back, she got some cookies. She put these cookies in the break room and everyone flocked to them, taking handfuls at a time. Turns out that there was one person who didn’t get a cookie. Rumors spread, information was leaked, and AIG was in a downward spiral towards the end. In a crisis, all it takes is one person getting the wrong perception and reality breaks down.

Levick shared one important piece of advice with the college students in his audience: If you’re trying to land the job or the internship, you have to know and understand the company inside and out. Before you interview, find three risks the company has by searching the Web for names of lawyers, plaintiffs or other legal action. When you find that information, you’ll understand the company’s risks and may even develop some ideas to help. If you can do that, you will be set apart from other candidates.

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