THINKPIECE: What can PR do to prove it is taking the lead indeveloping crucial crisis response plans?

September 11 brought out the best in all types of people, and gave

PR pros the opportunity to demonstrate leadership by raising awareness

of how to manage and communicate during the unexpected.



And management is pre-disposed to learn about the high-value of

effective crisis and issues management at the moment. Even the corporate

ostriches are having to listen to the PR fraternity.



So who within PR has this opportunity to lead?



The PRSA or Council of PR Firms could create a themed, advertising

supplement on issues management and crisis communications for placement

in major business magazines.



The PRSA could develop an issues management and crisis communications

presentation for use by members with local chambers of commerce and

other business organizations. This may have shortcomings: people

delivering the information may not be authorities, and audiences may not

be prospective clients. But if the industry is to raise awareness of an

important capability, why not do it from the bottom up, as well as from

top down?



Agency leaders must educate different enterprises about issues

management, crisis communications and effective communications

techniques.



MSNBC.com featured an article titled "PR Tips for Inept Civic Leaders" a

few weeks ago in which a crisis management specialist offered public

servants advice about communicating more openly when being

interviewed.



Crisis authorities could be interviewed more frequently in print and

broadcast business media. Over the past weeks, more of the industry's

better thinkers should have been commenting on current events. Bob

Dillenschneider, on FOX's Neil Cavuto show, delivered an outstanding

critique of why vacating the House of Representatives sent a conflicting

message to the public.



In-house corporate communicators and public affairs execs could be

discussing preparedness plans with their chairmen. No comfort should be

taken with existing plans, not without carefully reviewing them in the

context of September 11.



In-house executives could also proactively inform employees,

shareholders, key customers, and analysts that current crisis management

plans are in place.



Issues and crisis management/communications are core PR

capabilities.



September 11 created the opportunity for PR leaders to increase

awareness of these capabilities and to help organizations be prepared.

By seizing that opportunity, PR can help speed the return from chaos to

order.



Jon Weisberg owns Weisberg Communications Company in Park City, UT.



He was formerly a senior public affairs executive for Bristol-Myers

Squibb. Next spring, he will introduce a new issues and crisis

management course to the Masters in Communications program at

Westminster College in Salt Lake City.



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