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December 2nd, 2009

Tiger Gives us a Reminder to Plan for Crises

The buzz for the past few days has been all about the Tiger Woods incident. The PR industry has been all over this. And I’ve seen opinion after opinion and expert after expert giving Tiger advice or stating what his PR team should’ve done. Yes, we know he should be transparent…..

Some of the posts I’ve seen have made some good points, but we can only hear about transparency so much. I’m not going to write my own post giving advice to Tiger because I know he’ll never read it. And I think everyone out there feels, to varying extents, Tiger’s team handled this situation poorly from a PR perspective. However there is something in this flux of news that I think has been overlooked – a crisis communications plan.

Did Tiger’s PR and legal teams have a crisis communications plan? Having a plan in place is the first step to responding the right way when a crisis actually happens. Developing a plan makes you think of potential scenarios and possible outcomes in advance of anything ever happening, which is actually very helpful. You can often get lost in a one-track frame of mind if you’re trying to develop communication response plans in the midst of a crisis. Your thinking is clearer if you’re doing it in advance and have time to consider all alternatives and repercussions.

Of course planning can only help you so much. If Tiger’s team did have a crisis comms plans these events were probably not included in it. And there are still ‘in the moment’ decisions that have to be made even if you’ve done the advance preparation. But a crisis comms plan makes it easier to make those decisions. Decisions like:

  • Are we legally allowed to say anything? If so, to what extent?
  • Who should speak for the company during this crisis? What if that person’s not available?
  • What avenues of communication can/should we use?
  • Do we need to work with other agencies (such as local law enforcement, local/state/federal officials) to develop joint communications?

Those are just a few of many, many questions that should be answered.

So does your company have a crisis communications plan? If not, you need to develop one. You never know what could happen and when it could happen. And today your publics are demanding complete transparency. Will you know how to get information out and what to say? Make sure your company is prepared before a crisis occurs, so you don’t have to worry about clean-up like Tiger is now.

About the Author
Kevin is a senior client executive at Voce working to lead, develop and execute communication programs that focus on public relations and social media. Read his previous contributions to the Voce Nation Blog and follow Kevin on twitter @kevin_york.

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