Crisis Communications - Public Relations - Strategic Marketing

When is "off the record"​ REALLY "off the record?"​​

Recently, two high-profile Washington officials claimed that their controversial interviews were “off the record.” The term is confusing because there is no common definition of the term. To some people it means that you can utilize the information you received but without attribution. The other common definition is that the information cannot be reported or attributed, but is being provided for guidance or to clarify an issue. “Off the record” comments can be helpful but only if you fully understand the process as well as the legal implications.Rule One: Any agreement comes before the interview or statement.Rule Two: You and the reporter clearly define the meaning of the term or use other terms to clarify your agreement.Rule Three: This type of agreement works best when you know and trust the journalist, and will have contact with them in the future. For example, a beat or trade journal reporter. No journalist wants to burn a dependable news source on a topic, business or government agency they need to cover in the future.  Rule Four: There is nothing to prevent an attorney from asking you under oath what you told somebody. Saying it was “off the record” is not protection from a subpoena, deposition or courtroom testimony.Unless you have a great deal of personal experience or excellent PR and legal counsel the best strategy is to avoid using “off the record” comments. There are many other ways of helping journalists receive information that is significant to supporting your position on an issue.If you have any questions or comments give us a call at 214-368-0909 or contact us at .  ​

Three Reasons Why Your Company’s Crisis Plan Won’t Work​

Over the years we have reviewed dozens of corporate crisis management plans. Unfortunately in many instances the plans as written would prove to be of little or no value in an actual crisis. Here are three reasons why: Reason #1Lack of awareness – For example, let’s use the analogy of a fire. A small fire can be extinguished quickly if the alarm sounds or it can grow and become out of control if there is no early warning. A lack of awareness within an organization can mean that issues that can be dealt with at a pre-crisis level are not properly identified for the attention of senior management. Crisis management and prevention in an organization involves everyone, not just senior management. Reason #2The plan slows initial response – With the advent of social media, a crisis plan must develop a process to respond quickly in the event the crisis goes viral. A properly organized plan creates a process for addressing this issue with the speed required in the social media age while taking into account potential legal issues, and releasing only accurate verified information. Reason #3 Lack of buy-in – In the social media age it is imperative that key decision makers have agreed in advance on as many issues as possible, and that there is consensus on the initial response to a crisis situation. Lack of an agreed upon strategy can slow the response and allow the situation to get completely out of hand. The old saying, “that a lie will be halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on” has never been truer since the advent of social media.​

Don't make this critical mistake​

How could this happen? Whose fault was it? Why didn’t you prevent it? Should you have known there was a problem? The pressure to comment following a high profile incident is intense, and today it is often exaggerated further by the speed with which social media can turn any situation into a worldwide controversy. Unfortunately, over and over again the pressure causes organizations to comment before they have had time to sufficiently investigate the situation. After all doesn’t saying “no comment” make you look guilty? In the worst cases – and we can point to many – the organization is forced to correct the initial misinformation further damaging their credibility.“Were you lying then or are you lying now?” There is a strategy for effectively dealing with this dilemma. It is part of the strategy we provide for our clients and incorporate into our media interview training seminars, crisis prevention programs, crisis management plans and CLE programs for the legal community.If you would like to see an example or learn more about this approach contact us at 214 368-0909 or   ​

What Pepsi Needed to Prevent a Controversy​

I write this even though it may curtail our crisis management practice. The latest controversy involving Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad shows once again the importance of having a devil’s advocate in an organization. The ad has been widely criticized in social media with allegations that it is tasteless and tried to capitalize on the Black Lives Matter movement. That certainly wasn’t Pepsi’s intent. The devil’s advocate is given the role of looking at the project, idea or ad in the worst possible light. What would a competitor, regulator or advocate say? Could someone be offended? Assigning one or more members of your team to the role of devil’s advocate or previewing the ad to a diverse audience empowered to provide honest feedback might have prevented this controversy. Creativity and consensus can be good things, but in today’s society where everyone is an instant critic, a devil’s advocate process is more important than ever.​

Did you know Bill O’Reilly once worked in Dallas?​

Did you know Bill O’Reilly once worked in Dallas? I remember going to his going away party shortly after arriving at the station. Columnist Ed Bark (Uncle Barky) wrote an excellent article about O’Reilly’s brief stay in the market. The picture above is from an interview I did on the O’Reilly Factor as part of the defense of a high profile court case that eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Interacting with the media on a regular basis for clients helps make sure that our media interview training programs are based on experience and strategies developed over decades of actually being interviewed. It makes all the difference.   ​