Monday, September 27, 2010

PR Lessons Learned from 25 Years of Crisis Work

Stephen Dishart, former long-time head of communications for Swiss Re, a global reinsurer, and now executive director of Blue Ocean Institute, addressed the Makovsky team on key PR lessons he has learned in 25 years of crisis management experience. They include the following:
• “A recent publication featured psychological tips and tricks for communications executives dealing with crises. This is ridiculous! All you need to do is tell the truth.”
• “The problem with journalism today is the massive number of journalist departures – so that you are constantly re-educating…painful during a crisis.”
• “Simplest rule: you are never off the record. I wish Stanley McChrystal (Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan) had remembered that.”
• “When there are acquisitions, there will always be people cut – and thus you will inevitably get bad press.”
• “What is the primary thing BP did wrong? Giving estimates in gallons lost per day: 5000...a number that was continually revised and disputed. Rule: Never give a number – always say ‘we can’t get that information’ –and let your experts make an assessment.”
• “Stay on message. If the official comment is ‘this is a personal matter’ and there is nothing more to be said, don’t let the press lead you astray by asking the same questions six different ways.”
• “It is better for CEOs to be fired than for their companies to go down the tubes (e.g. Tony Hayward.”
• “There’s no need to answer questions relating to what a former CEO said or did. Just say ‘he is no longer with the firm.’”
• “About the HP/Hurd/Oracle crisis: Ultimately a company (Hewlett Packard) has to behave well.”

Technorati Tags: Stephen Dishart,Swiss Re,Blue Ocean Institute, communications, public relations, business, Makovsky

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