Ghomeshi issue highlights importance of choosing the right crisis response strategy


When news broke Sunday morning that CBC had cut ties with Jian Ghomeshi, it was a stark change from the announcement several days before that he was taking a leave of absence, and set up this story up for much closer media scrutiny.

Both the CBC and Ghomeshi have each deployed their own PR strategies.  Time will tell how well each performs.

What we do know, however, is that when the media cycle is measured in increments of minutes rather than days, the strategy you adopt in a crisis needs to work in the immediate – but also be durable enough to last.  Not an easy task to accomplish when decisions with long-lasting effects need to be made quickly.

If your organization faces an issue or allegations, what are some key crisis response rules to keep in mind when you’re deciding on what PR strategy to adopt?

  • Get all the facts.  You can’t hope to decide on a PR strategy that can withstand scrutiny and the Twitter-paced media cycle if you don’t know all the facts – especially the ugly ones. Similar to lawyers, communicators need the benefit of full disclosure to get the strategy and message right.  Often this is a difficult thing for companies or organizations to do, especially when faced with unpleasant situations.
  •  Decide on what the long game is. What are you trying to do achieve with your communications strategy? Is it just managing the immediate media fall-out of an issue? Managing your reputation for the long-term? Setting your organization up for a lawsuit? The strategy that’s best for any given situation depends on what your goals are. You’ve got to be clear about them at the start.
  •  Stress test your assumptions. When the other shoe drops and others challenge your narrative, how well will it stand up? Be tough as you test your narrative. If it doesn’t stand up, you’ve got work to do.
  •  Get outside your bubble before deciding on a strategy. When choosing a communications strategy, it’s vital to get outside the comfort of what you know and think to get perspective of how the public will see the issue. Sometimes it can be a wake-up call. And the assumed strategy for managing that issue into obscurity suddenly doesn’t work very well.
  • Choose the right communications tools. News releases aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution for managing the communications around a contentious issue. Look at the stakeholders you want to reach and determine what communications channels are best aligned with getting your story out. Tread carefully as you choose and be prepared for the unexpected, particularly when you’re using social media to share information and engage people in these situations.

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