Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Conversations with a Director of Public Relations

Singapore.  21 Sep 2010.  I had an interesting conversation with the Director of a Public Affairs Department recently where we spoke briefly about my concept of being pro-active (open) in releasing information about incidents to gain the information initiative and to frame the incident.

Essentially, the Director felt that such an open approach would (a) bring unnecessary attention to the incident and make it into a crisis; and (b) given the size of the organisation, there are dozens of incidences that occur daily which can shake stakeholder confidence in the management.

My response to his concerns were as follows:

a.  Perfect Information Environment.  In today's perfect information environment nothing will remain hidden forever.  Current "successes" where not highlighting incidences have kept it out of the news is, to me, a fallacy.  I believe that the incidences did not become a crisis not because no one knew about it, but simply because it was not considered newsworthy.

b.  Not all Incidences become Crisis.  The fact that these numerous minor incidences were not picked-up by the main-stream media only shows that stakeholders have accepted that such incidences will happen.  As such, reporting it is unlikely to make it into a crisis.

In short, my thinking is that organisations should augment their current approach of ad hoc news releases with monthly or bi-monthly press briefings.  These press briefings will then enable the organisation to "control' the media cycle by allowing the organisation to (a) "frame" incidences; and (b) allow the organisation the opportunity to "mask" potential crisis without being accused of hiding the truth.

In the end, one of my key take-aways from our conversation is that the approach an organisation adopts towards crisis management is very much dependant on its view and understanding of the information environment.

To be more effective, an organisation must know that the information environment has changed and adopt new methods to deal with it.

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