by Cody Warner
Crisis communication is one of the most important aspects of our public relations education at CSULB. Recently, there has been a slew of crisis communication-worthy events involving high profile personalities. Because of this, the entire world of crisis communication is changing, according to Andrew Blum of AJB Communications. The industry is being forced to adapt the the standard procedures of crisis PR because of how quickly the news spreads in today’s media.
When news about the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations broke, he was not the first or only high profile personality being accused of sexual harassment. He was able to hire a PR firm, but when it broke, some different things happened in regards to the handling of the crisis. We learn that there will be a team and one-hour window to craft a plan and team to communicate with publics to address the crisis. Weinstein’s job was immediately spared, but in many of these cases the accused were fired immediately upon release of the allegations, faster than any of the parties involved would have been able to construct a message or assemble a team. Instead, we’ve seen organizations move to end their relationship with the accused party and quickly begin a recovery process rather than a recuperation process.
Other entertainers such as Matt Lauer as well as politicians like Senator Al Franken and Judge Roy Moore have joined Weinstein as accused parties. The entertainers were quickly removed from their positions and though the politicians haven’t been barred from participating in government, there have been calls for their resignation. These cases have displayed another deviation from prior cases; the original accuser was not left to stand alone, but was instead flanked by a team of people who had gone through similar experiences with Weinstein. This will raise the urgency of a crisis situation because with a growing number of accusers there are a growing number of concerned publics. This could lend itself to the exponentiation of the size of a crisis.
The evolving difficulties in crisis PR are immediately observable, but the adapted strategies and tactics will not instantly yield results. It will take time and, unfortunately, more crises for the adaptations in training and tactics to reflect in the communication. It is safe to say, however, that the instantaneous nature of our news and social interaction has begun to make its mark on public relations. During the Fall 2017 semester we have seen crisis responses that may have lasted months before approach a 24-hour life cycle. As PR practitioners, this phenomenon is something we will soon have the power to influence and responsibility to address.
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