#PR: Crisis Control | How to Handle a Client in Need

29 Jul

   So, we’ve had a lot commotion with one of our non-profit clients, BUTCH Voices, this week.  But these are the types of things we love … because they keep us busy.

A former BUTCH Voices board member recently released a statement that was published by a blog called Velvet Park.  This, of course, created an uproar via fb, twitter, and the various inboxes of various members of BV.

So what next?  Well within 24 hours, we of course released a statement from Krys Freeman, president of BUTCH Voices: An Open Letter … and of course, we contacted the original publication to schedule another interview … which produced this: Unwinding the Butch Fight.  We then released a statement from Joe Leblanc, BUTCH Voices Founder: Letter From BV Founder.  In the coming days, more BUTCH Voices (i.e. more board member voices) will be added to the mix.

We’ve also had folks manning twitter at all hours. Why?  Because people, when hurt or confused, get sneaky … or sneakily vocal … they say things they don’t mean, and a lot of times mean things they don’t say. But that is what you’ve got to look out for.

How many times have we seen large organizations think that they were taking the high road by not addressing the public outcry?  How many times have we seen this high road brought down low?

This low … is the point you never want your client to reach.

WHAT TO DO

  1. Respond Quickly: Time is money, reputation, all other things important to your client.  Helping them understand the pertinence of a timely engagement with detractors and/or supporters is necessary in the early moments of what has the possibility of being deemed a “media crisis.”
  2. Engage: Be sure your clients are releasing materials that are sensitive to the urgent questions or issues being raised by critics and supporters.  If they are a community organization or public figure, the worst thing you can do is create boundaries between the client and its public/community.
  3. Who matters.  So does how: Remember that it matters to your audience whether it is the president of the organization or the PR rep.  It also matters whether it is a member of the judicial board, or the office’s janitor.  Be sure that at all times you are remembering the needs of the community, who they want to hear from … and what they want to feel when they hear it.  This will allow you to accurately assess tone and word choice of anything printed.  It will also help you figure out what actions can come next.
  4. Communication is Key: NEVER BE CONDESCENDING. NEVER SAY NOTHING.

 

RESPOND. RESPOND. RESPOND.

 

with <3,

ARDOR BRAND, LLC.

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2 Responses to “#PR: Crisis Control | How to Handle a Client in Need”

  1. NS Harris 08/28/2011 at 1:42 PM #

    Dear Ardor Brand – from one PR pro to another – agreed that timing & engaging etc are essential to ‘crisis’ communication in the corporate world.
    But frankly, managing a community conversation using corporate tools in this situation has in fact undermined BV’s credibility as a grassroots community organization. This is generally not a community of folks who trust or value corporate styles.
    Many folks felt that the first statement put out ‘said nothing’. Which is of course the goal of corporate communication – i.e. ‘spin’. And when these folks wrote/queried asking for clarification/real answers they received no reply.
    Others found even more ground for division – rather than a resolution and a way forward – in certain revealing sections of the founder’s statement put out so speedily.
    And as for twitter – since BV folks were tweeting personally and incorrectly, making negative assumptions re: the goals/potential mission of the BN folks – it’s clear that monitoring twitter without thinking through responses stirred up more conflict rather than calming feelings.
    As you might have heard, a community townhall meeting with a moderator was held at the end of the BV conference, and there was general community agreement re: there being enough space for two organizations and a discussion re: how best to support both.
    The core issues/differences were not solved by corporate PR, but rather by a community conversation.

    • ARDOR BRAND, LLC. 08/28/2011 at 2:25 PM #

      I appreciate your response. However, we did not “spin” or handle anyone as a “corporate” institution.

      To be clear, from the beginning, BUTCH Voices stated that they welcomed room for a new organization. From the beginning, BUTCH Voices also withheld no information other than personal facts regarding personal issues between members of the board concerning dismissal and leaving the group. This was a decision by BUTCH Voices president, Krys Freeman, and board members. When people continued to send queries … Krys responded, as did Joe and BV board members.

      In addition, the community town hall meeting was a suggestion backed by Ardor Brand, so yes, we are aware of it. We suggested this because- I’m not sure if you’re familiar with our organization- but we are not corporate. We are not “suits.”

      We are a group of individuals involved in the daily business of brands and community organizations on a daily basis … on both business and personal levels. We had a feeling that, more than forming opinions about BUTCH Voices and statements being read in private rooms … with particular editorial spins … people needed to remember that BUTCH Voices is not separate from, but a part of the community. The organization agreed with this and wanted people to understand that their voices were heard. I am glad that you agree the town hall meeting was the best decision to be made.

      What is clear from your examples is that, yes, through the use of social media, people can misunderstand and misjudge personal feelings. It is also clear that, yes, when a community organization that serves a community usually averse to organizational methods perceived as “corporate” or “anti-community” by some, that, too, can cause more confusion. However, it is not clear that there has to be such a distinction between BV as grass roots and BV as a grassroots organization with additional help from a PR company. They have additional help from event planners, grant writers, web designers- all things needed to maintain a professional and ever-expanding organization.

      It is also clear that BUTCH Voices board members are still standing beside their decision to work with us … and that (though some believe that this was not for the best) there are many who understand why, for a group of individuals looking to compartmentalize workload and focus individual efforts where they are most needed, this was a necessary task.

      Again, thank you for the feedback. Your response is useful for thinking through moving forward with our relationship with both Krys Freeman and BUTCH Voices.

      with <3,
      THE ARDOR BRAND

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