Session No

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Session No

    Session No. 20

Course Title: Business Crisis and Continuity Management

Session 20: Crisis Communication II

    Time: 1.5 hrs


    20.1 Discuss and compare the recommendations of the “experts” in response to the case study:

     Media Policy What Media Policy?

    20.2 State the essential elements of management communication and explain the importance

     of each element in a crisis communication context.

    20.3 Explain the role of the media in crisis communication, and considerations for effectively

    dealing with the media and the public during a crisis.

    20.4 Explain the concept of strategic ambiguity in crisis communication and its possible

     appropriate and inappropriate application to crisis situations.

    20.5 Discuss the BurgerMax Case study in the context of Crisis Management and Crisis



This session starts with a class discussion of the students’ responses to the case study: Media

    Policy What Media Policy? and a comparison with the responses of the “experts.” The

    elements of effective communication as included in Barton’s book are then presented for discussion, followed by a presentation and discussion of the role of the media in crisis communication and considerations for effectively dealing with the media and the public during a crisis. The concept of strategic ambiguity as applied in three case studies, as contrasted with the rules and guidelines for crisis communication presented in session 19 is then presented. The session concludes with the Crisis Communication Management case study: The BurgerMax Case A study in failing to protect and enhance corporate trust and in prolonging the agony of victims; which is based in part on the actual Jack in the Box case described in the discussion of strategic ambiguity. The BurgerMax case is available on the Lukaszewski Web site ands

    is assigned as student reading for this session. The details of the case study and the accompanying details are not included in the session remarks since they are readily available in the case study.

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Student Reading:

Lukaszewski, James. The Burger Max Case. (2009). Retrieved March 10, 2009 at:,_01-06-09,_Print_Only.pdf

Sonnefeld, Sandy. Media Policy What Media Policy? Harvard Business Review on Crisis

    Management. (1995) Harvard Business School Press. Boston, MA. pp 123 - 142.

Instructor Reading:

Barnes, Robert. Court Allows Suit Against 'Light' Cigarette Makers

    Companies Face Huge Liabilities Over Marketing Washington Post. December 16, 2008. p. A02.

    Barton, Laurence. 1993. Crisis in Organizations: Managing and Communicating in the Heat of Chaos. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western Publishing Co. Pages 121 - 149.

    Clearing a Legal Haze: The Supreme Court stops Big Tobacco from blocking lawsuits over deceptive advertising. Washington Post Editorial. December 16, 2008. p. A18

Dyer, Samuel C. 1995. Getting People into the Crisis Communication Plan. Public Relations

    Quarterly. Vol. 40, No. 3. Pages 3841.

Lerbinger, Otto. 1997. The Crisis Manager Facing Risk and Responsibility. Mahwah, NJ:

    Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Pages 3151.

    Lukaszewski, James E. 1997. Establishing Individual and Corporate Crisis Communication Standards: The Principles and Protocols. Public Relations Quarterly. Vol. 42, No. 3. Pages 714.

Lukaszewski, James. The Burger Max Case. (2009). Retrieved March 10, 2009 at:,_01-06-09,_Print_Only.pdf

Mallozzi, Cos. 1994. Facing the Danger Zone in Crisis Communications. Risk Management [on-

    line]. Vol. 41, No. 1. Start page 34. Electronic version 5 pages.

Sonnefeld, Sandy. Media Policy What Media Policy? Harvard Business Review on Crisis

    Management. (1995) Harvard Business School Press. Boston, MA. pp 123 - 142.

    Sellnow, T.L., and Ulmer, R.R. 1995. Ambiguous Argument as Advocacy in Organizational Crisis Communication. Argumentation and Advocacy [on-line]. Vol. 31, No. 3. Start page 138. River Falls. Electronic version 9 pages.

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    Sellnow, T.L., and Ulmer, R.R. 1997. Strategic Ambiguity and the Ethic of Significant Choice in the Tobacco Industry’s Crisis Communication. Communication Studies [on-line]. Vol. 48, No. 3.

    Start page 215. West Lafayette. Electronic version 17 pages.

Taylor, Bob. 1996. “Crisis!” Business and Economic Review [on-line]. Vol. 43, No. 1.

    Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina. Start page 12. Electronic version 5 pages.

Traverso, Debra K. 1992. Opening a Credible Dialogue with Your Community. The Public

    Relations Journal. Vol. 48, No. 8. Start page 32. New York. Electronic form 3 pages.

Tyler, Lisa. 1997. Liability Means Never Being Able to Say You’re Sorry. Management

    Communication Quarterly [on-line]. Vol. 11, No. 1. Start page 51. Thousand Oaks. Electronic version 9 pages.

General Requirements:

Power Point slides are provided for the Instructor’s use if desired.

    Objective 20.1: Discuss and compare the recommendations of the “experts” in response to the case study: Media Policy What Media Policy?


Possible discussion questions are provided.


I. What the experts had to say.

    A. Mike Woods.

     1. Take the call, but not answer questions about the bombing. Have Janet act as the

     spokesperson for questions related to the bombing.

     2. Research the charities supported by Naturewise and the other companies that

     contribute to Naturewise.

     3. Research CHICARE.

     4. Only issue a press statement if there are multiple media inquiries.

     5. Stand up to the reporting local media and demand a retraction.

    B. John Purser.

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     1. Major lessons learned.

     a. Top level management must be active participants in the communication


     b. Every company needs a crisis communication plan that kicks in


     c. A crisis communication plan must include established channels of internal

     and external communication.

     2. Dana must take charge, define a strategy and act as the spokesperson.

     3. Dana should make a statement deploring the incident and assuming responsibility

     for the perceived failure of Narturewise to thoroughly investigate ands control its

     charitable contributions policy and process.

     4. Naturewise should prepare a written statement for the media.

     5. Dana should provide a written explanation for distribution to all Naturwise

     employees and keep them updated as the crisis unfolds and is resolved.

     6. Naturewise should have a fully distributed and understood policy to guide

     employees that are contacted by the media.

     7. When the crisis has passed, Dana should fire Bob and Marc for their


C. Stephen Greyser

     1. Dana should take the call and set up a follow on interview after a sufficient

     amount of time for her to research the situation and develop a strategy. During the


     a. Put Natutrewise’s policy of corporate giving in perspective and emphasize

     that it is the right thing to do.

     b. Admit giving the donation to CHICARE and the rationale for selecting

     CHICARE while also stating that Naturewise should have done a better

     job checking on Chicare.

     c. Decry the bombing.

     2. Focus on providing relevant information to Naturewise’s stakeholders including

     customers, investors and employees.

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    D. Anne Reynolds Ward.

     1. Present the facts to the public as soon as possible.

     2. Defend her company by presenting the facts in a simple and straight forward way

     to the Chicago newspaper.

     3. Immediately denounce the bombing, state that Naturewise would never condone

     violence and state that Naturewise will do everything possible to avoid similar

     mistakes in the future.

     4. Best case: Dana responds to the call with the facts and presents a credible case for

     Naturewise as a responsible and innovative company with great products and

     strong community ties.

     5. Worst case: Dana panics and is not responsive to the media who will in turn seek

     other sources for their reporting of the incident.

    E. Madge Kaplan

     1. Dana should take the call and set up a press conference for the afternoon.

     2. To get out in front of the story, Dana should pass the word of the press conference

     as widely as possible to the media.

     3. At the press conference, Dana should deny any prior knowledge of CHICARE

     funding TermRights, admit that Naturewise should have done a better job

     screening their donations and make a commitment to resolve the problem with

     screening in the future.

     4. After the crisis has passed, Dana needs to make sure that Naturewise has an

     adequate media policy.

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you agree or disagree with what the experts recommend?

How do the experts’ recommendations compare with those from your group?

Do the experts’ recommendations follow the Crisis Communication questions, activities,

    principles, goals, priorities and principles and guidelines discussed in the previous session?

    Should Dana admit that Naturewise was remiss in not fully investigating the charitable contribution distributions followed by CHICARE?

Should Dana fire Bob and Marc for their “incompetence”?

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    What type of guidance should be included in Naturewise’s Crisis Communication policy and plan?

Supplemental Considerations:


    Objective 20.2: State the essential elements of management communication and explain the importance of each element in a crisis communication context.


    Present the material by means of lecture and discussion as necessary.


II. Communication as a strategy.

    A. Effective communication is necessary to establish, enhance, protect, and restore an

    organization’s reputation.

    B. “If there is one key lesson crisis management experts have learned over the years, it is 1 that facts alone do not win arguments, perceptions do.

    1. Consequently, in order to communicate effectively, both in times of normal

    operations and in crises, organizations must adequately consider the perceptions

    of their constituents (internal, external, and the media) and structure their

    communication strategy and actions accordingly.

    2. Barton lays out a series of six building blocks (elements) that form the basis of an

    effective communications strategy.

     2III. Building blocks of a communication strategy (Power Point slide 20 2):

    A. Audience.

    1. Identify relevant audiences before a crisis and design crisis communication plans

    specific to those audiences.

    2. Communicating with these audiences is not just a during- and post-crisis

    requirement. Communication in times of routine operations is necessary to

    establish and maintain a positive reputation. (Remember principle 6 from the

    Weber McGinn, Inc., “Twelve Principles of Crisis Leadership”: To emerge from

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    a crisis with its business base and reputation intact, an organization must

    respond in a manner that is 100% consistent with its image.)

3. To conduct an audience analysis, Barton recommends a series of questions:

    a. Where are these audiences located?

    b. Can you reach them by calling a meeting of interested parties in your

    company auditorium, or will you use the mass media? Would a mailing or

    telegram suffice?

    c. Would a press conference reach the intended audiences, or would it bypass

    those who have a specific interest in this crisis?

    d. Could you communicate with interested individuals in one day, or would a

    crisis communication program take several days or longer?

    e. Do you have the correct names and addresses of the individuals who are

    vital to implementing this plan?

    f. Can you make any judgments about the demographic composition of your


    B. Goal.

1. Effective crisis communication requires a specific goal for each audience.

2. Not only is the goal necessary for shaping the content of the communication, it is

    necessary for evaluating the effectiveness of the communication.

3. Barton recommends a series of questions that can help establish goals:

    a. Do you know what you want to say, or are you merely communicating

    because it seems like the right thing to do? Will your communication help

    bring the crisis closer to closure, or could it complicate the problem?

    b. How can you prevent misunderstandings? Should you merely clarify

    existing information?

    c. Is someone spreading misinformation about your organization? How can you

    counter this?

    d. Is your communication goal to calm people, or is it to alert them to potential

    harm? Should you even attempt to soothe the public if there is a distinct

    possibility that further damage, deaths, or injuries could still occur?

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    e. Do you seek to delay public scrutiny of your organization, or do you

    welcome inspections and tours at this time?

C. Message.

    1. The construction of a message (one-way delivery), which targets a specific

    audience to accomplish a specific goal should include consideration of the


    a. Tone.

    b. Content.

    c. Receiver.

    2. As discussed in the earlier session on risk communication, effective

    communication (which takes into account the audience’s concerns and

    perceptions) generally involves a mutual exchange of information (two-way

    exchange). Therefore, if at all possible, crisis communication should not be

    limited to merely delivering a message.

D. Source.

    1. The spokesperson (crisis communicator) should be chosen with the target

    audience and specific goals in mind.

    2. The development of the message and choice of a spokesperson should include

    consideration of the following points:

    a. Will your message be brief, or does the complexity of the crisis require a

    carefully composed and organized, detailed message?

    b. Should the message be delivered in person or by way of teleconference or

    other channel? What assumptions will people make about your organization

    given the channel you select?

    c. Should the crisis invite further dialogue (two-way exchange) between the

    parties? Should the message have a tone that indicates that the crisis has been

    or is about to be solved, thus discouraging further communication?

    Possible Discussion Question:

    Do you agree with the above suggestion that there are situations where further

    communication should be discouraged?

E. Support and Information.

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    1. We have discussed information support necessary for the crisis management

    team in an earlier session.

    F. Feedback.

    1. As the crisis progresses and eventually winds down and ends, an evaluation of

    the entire crisis response, including crisis communication, should be conducted

    and documented (become part of the organizational memory).

    2. Barton recommends a series of questions that should be part of the evaluation.

    a. How did people learn of your problem?

    b. How effective was your response?

    c. Did you convey the correct series of messages?

    d. Whom did you offend, isolate, or fail to reach?

    e. If you were frequently asked to correct mistakes or provide amplification,

    why was this the case?

    f. Which messages were most effective in mitigating the problem? and which

    were least successful?

    g. How can you maintain an on-going dialogue with especially important

    audience members?

    3. The last question above is particularly important. Before another crisis occurs is

    the time to build equity with relevant audiences through two-way communication

    and demonstrated commitment to safety, public concerns, and protection of the


Supplemental Considerations:


Objective 21.3: Explain the role of the media in crisis communication, and considerations

    for effectively dealing with the media and the public during a crisis.


    Present the material by means of lecture and discussion as necessary.


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    I. Role of the media.

    A. “With rare exception, the media are the most important constituency in a crisis

    because they frame it and they judge it. They declare guilt or innocence. A single 3 story can exonerate a company or inflict permanent damage.

B. Television.

    1. Local, national and international television news programming has proliferated

    over the last decade, making it more and more likely that even minor crises will

    receive some level of television coverage.

    2. Crisis communicators must be ready with their initial comment/statement of the

    facts as known immediately following the crisis event, or run the danger of having

    the television reporter find someone who is willing to tell the story from his/her

    perspective (possibly unfavorable) or even make speculations about the situation

    based on incomplete information and personal opinion.

C. Newspapers.

    1. Newspapers present a special problem since they “are more and more becoming

    analytic organs, spending less time on who, what, when, where, and why, and 4more time on investigative pieces.

    2. As a crisis unfolds, there should be a level of expectation that the newspaper

    coverage will go beyond reporting the breaking facts and will “investigate the

    company history, trying to find footprints that shed light on why the crisis

    happened. They aren’t searching for evidence that clears you of wrong doing 5either.

    a. Companies should therefore have a thoroughly researched corporate history

    approved and readily available.

    b. Based upon the risk assessment function and risk management strategies, the

    history should attempt to emphasize the positives (based on factual

    information) to bolster the company’s good will and to establish control over

    the communication process (e.g., the company has never been cited for

    environmental infractions, the company has spent $XXX on earthquake

    mitigation projects, the company has an active employee assistance program,


D. “There is a generic news coverage formula for corporate crises, particularly those 6involving the environment or damage to other parties” that should be considered in

    dealing with the media “Event (i.e., corporate greed, selfishness, and/or

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