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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lessons from Chardon High School

Geauga County, Ohio Sheriff Daniel McLelland – in whose county the fatal Chardon High School shooting occurred Monday – believes proactive crisis response training prevented the incident from causing more panic in the community than it already had:

"Several years ago, the Chardon school district and local law enforcement began conducting drills, training, practice, if you would, for an event just like occurred today. As a result of that we were well-prepared for the response," he said at a news conference. "Law enforcement was quickly placed inside the school upon arrival, and we believe that helped to lessen the tragedy that occurred.”"

Anyone who listens to the audio tapes of the cool, professional tone and voices of public safety first responders as the horror unfolded in real-time in their home town cannot help but be impressed with their calm efficiency.

CommCore regularly advises its clients that crisis planning, training and simulation drills are essential to successful, prompt crisis communications and response. Whether it's a case of seemingly random violence, as in Chardon, or a threat to a brand's reputation as is more often the case for our clients, the lessons are the same:

·         Preparedness is not a booklet in a filing cabinet.
·         Effective, rapid and accurate response is due to proactive planning and drilling. It does not happen by accident.
·         Clear and concise communication to key stakeholders is an essential part of any successful crisis response. People want to know what you know, and they expect to know it now.

We can surmise that Chardon High School and local law enforcement officials learned hard lessons from the Columbine massacre in Colorado thirteen years ago. Have you or your clients stopped to learn from Chardon?

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Monday, February 27, 2012

NEWS OF THE WEIRD


Hard to find the old fashioned police blotter items in your local newspaper these days.  They’ve gone the way of the Private Eye’s  fedora.
 Jim Romanesko, news media watchdog, says that there are so few beat reporters left, there’s no one left to go down to the roundhouse any more to pick up the noteworthy cop beat tidbits.

So why is the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department getting more blotter coverage than ever?

Because of blog posts by the MPD’s Joel DeSpain.  As Romanesko explains, DeSpain’s blogs are now gaining national exposure as ongoing “news of the weird” to the point that major mainstream newspapers, online news sites, and social media are picking up his craziest police notes. Consider the incident about the guy in a suit who walked into a Denny’s restaurant claiming to be a supervisor and cooked himself a meal before being called-out by staff as a fraud. Or the most-shared report to date: the arrest of Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop.

OK, so as a professional communicator the daily police blotter is not your everyday concern. But there’s a larger lesson here: at CommCore we always advise our clients that you ignore the blogosphere and social media at your own risk…and at the risk of your organization’s brand. Blogs are a great place to tell and distribute good stories in a brief and creative way…and furthermore, if you don’t carefully  monitor the social space,  you never know what’s out there that can affect you or your brand. 

What are some of the weirdest stories you’ve found on blogs and in social media that affect your organization or client?

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Video Blog: "A tale of two universities"



A Tale of Two Universities

In the news this week is another campus crisis. (click here) Fifteen students including three current football players at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth were arrested and charged with drug trafficking as a result of a police sting operation. TCU officials took the rare move of releasing all information in real time including statements, press releases, and held a full open news conference on the day the news broke.

Compare this with Penn State where transparency by university leaders took some time to appear.

We’re not comparing the severity of the offenses...both are bad. However the immediate openness that TCU is exhibiting can go a long way in preventing massive damage to its reputation. In a crisis, you can’t control the news of the day. You can control the timeliness and credibility of your response.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Does the Board Need Training on Reg FD? Look at Diamond Foods…

The SEC’s Regulation Fair Disclosure, or Reg FD has been in effect for nearly 12 years now and essentially requires public companies to widely – not selectively – communicate material information. As you will see from this accompanying clip, it seems that the Board at Diamond Foods needs a refresher course.

As if food companies these days don’t have enough to worry about, for Diamond - add an accounting scandal on top please. So, off go the CEO and CFO. Fine, but then to not disclose this material management change – seems an unforced error from a reputational perspective. Results? Lawsuits, lots of them and the reversal of deals like the one they had in the offing with P&G.

Crises befall every organization, but when the Board is making things worse, it’s time they got better advice, were trained on critical public company components like Reg FD or should be booted out.

I suspect these types of missteps happen often. What other examples have you seen? How many company crises are worsened by the acts and decisions of the management committee or the board?

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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Komen firestorm, and flip-flop

The sudden reversal by the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation will likely not end the controversy over its temporary withdrawal of funding for mammograms from Planned Parenthood. Without taking a position on the decision itself, and on the reversal, as communications consultants we at CommCore have several observations:

·    Why did they make the original announcement in the midst of a bitterly contested Presidential and Congressional election year in which Culture War issues such as abortion – which Planned Parenthood provides on-demand – are among the most divisive? Charges of caving in to political pressure are among those being hurled at Komen most often. We would have suggested waiting until after the election in November. Consider the landscape when making a controversial decision, and if possible, time it to minimize conflict.
·    For Planned Parenthood this was what we at CommCore call a Flash Crisis.  The equivalent of a recall for a drug company.   While you can’t always predict the timing, you know things happen and you can always be ready with standby statements, key messages, important facts, etc.  Planned Parenthood clearly had this in the ready because they were fast and relevant in their responses.
·    Why did Komen make the original announcement before withdrawing funds from other organizations besides Planned Parenthood, an organization already under constant attack by conservatives and Right-to-Life groups? Komen president  Nancy Brinker responded to charges of singling out Planned Parenthood by saying they were in the process of re-evaluating their mammogram contracts with “several” other organizations. We would have suggested waiting until those were lined up.
·    Where was the impartial, beyond reproach vindicator for Komen? When you know you run the risk of being cast as the Bad Guy, make sure you have at least one high profile, credible ally ready to support you in the face of expected criticism. The only vocal support for Komen was, predictably, from Right to Life groups, which only furthered the appearance of giving in to political pressure.

What do you think about the Komen announcement, and the sudden reversal, from a PR and corporate communications perspective?

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