The Public Relations Strategist

Sharing Best Practices Following a Crisis

Publication Date: 2009, Summer

Source: SO02 Public Relations Strategist
Product Code: 6K-030901
Organization/Author/Firm: John Elsasser
Specialization(s): Corporate Communications
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I’m always grateful to PR professionals who take the time to share best practices with us following a crisis (or, sometimes, during a crisis).

For instance, for our last crisis issue in the summer of 2007, contributor Frances Ward-Johnson, Ph.D., APR, traveled to the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., where she interviewed Larry G. Hincker, associate vice president of the Office of University Relations. Hincker spoke about his experiences in the aftermath of the campus shooting that left 32 students and faculty members dead in April 2007.

Once again for our crisis issue, the PR professionals who were on the front lines shared their experiences. Tim McIntyre was eager to speak with us to tell Domino’s side of the story — and express the organization’s surprise and remorse over the vulgar hoax videos created by two employees this past spring. McIntyre, the vice president of corporate communications, explained Domino’s crisis management plan in-depth during the 90-minute conversation with Strategist associate editor Amy Jacques.

He detailed Domino’s original reaction to the videos, what the company could have done better, the reasons for delivering a YouTube response and what it learned from the experience. McIntyre also provided valuable advice to other PR professionals who may find themselves in similar situations. The interview begins on Page 6.

Elsewhere in this issue, Strategist editorial assistant Kyra Auffermann talked with Melanie Magara, assistant vice president for public affairs at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Magara discussed the university’s efficient and compassionate response following the February 2008 campus shooting that left five dead. NIU earned national recognition for its crisis management, including the 2009 Best of Silver Anvil Award. The interview begins on Page 12.

Putting words into action

After writing an article for this issue, Joan Gladstone, APR, Fellow PRSA, put her own advice to work. In late July, she implemented a crisis plan that she developed for a major restaurant chain after a customer alleged that he found a foreign object in his food.

Gladstone, president and CEO of Gladstone International in Laguna Beach, Calif., believes that by working closely with top executives to develop the plan, management was more receptive to her advice when the crisis hit.

By getting to know the executives during the planning process, Gladstone said that she also felt a heightened sense of empathy for what they were experiencing, and a stronger and more gratifying sense of being part of the team. Her article, “Persuading CEOs To Do the Right Thing During a Crisis,” starts on Page 32.