Case Study On Crisis Communications

By Mark Macias

I don’t like the sight of guns. Heck, I don’t even like talking about guns, but the NRA has delivered a great crisis communications lesson for any business facing a branding crisis.

For the sake of clarification, I am not defending the NRA and their statements over any school shootings. My position on gun control would deter me from ever consulting the NRA and their public image problem. 

That is one of the first things you should research on a crisis communications agency before you hire them. Does the PR agency or crisis firm believe in your cause? Does the crisis consultant believe what you say?

That’s important because you want to hire a crisis communications team that believes in your cause or you risk dissent when the image debate turns to ethical questions. 

I have consulted many nonprofits and politicians through crisis campaigns. It was important for me to believe in their cause and purpose because my advice frequently needed to mesh with my values. 

If you own a nightclub and you’re facing a crisis communications problem in the media following a sale to minors, you don’t want to hire a Mormon who thinks it’s a sin to drink alcohol. You want to hire a publicist who understands the value of your service and believes in your club. 

Sure, that is an extreme example, but the best examples in life are clear and cut. Your situation may not be as lucid as the nightclub example, but you should 100 percent make sure your publicist believes in your cause. 

Now that the NRA has hired a team of crisis communications experts, here is my perspective on what they did wrong as a crisis consulting agency. 

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Crisis Advice – Release all the Bad News or Drip, Drip, Drip

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in a tough crisis situation. Every day bad news seems to come up, keeping his sexual harassment allegations in the news cycle.

Cuomo tried to apologize but he broke every mistake I laid out in my Forbes editorial – How to Apologize when the Media is Listening. If you read that article, you can learn how to authentically apologize for your mistakes.

So how do you control negative news once it’s out? And when you know more bad news is coming, how do you release it?

The end-game strategy of crisis communications is to get out of the news as quickly as possible. You don’t want any story to linger because as new developments unfold, it keeps your story in the news cycle.

News is always about advancing a story. During my time as Executive Producer with NBC, we would frequently see a story in the morning’s New York Post or Daily News – and try to figure out how to advance it.

Every day new information comes out, the more chances your negative story remains in the news.

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