Tellem develops a scale to evaluate crises, scandals

LOS ANGELES: When it comes to crisis communications, what's the difference between handling an Exxon oil spill and a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction?

LOS ANGELES: When it comes to crisis communications, what's the difference between handling an Exxon oil spill and a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction?

Three points, according to a new crisis evaluation tool modeled after the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

LA-based Tellem Worldwide last week announced it has created a proprietary five-point "crisis scale" to help clients and agencies better understand and manage how bad their problems are when scandal strikes.

"Clients always ask, 'How big is my crisis?'" said Tellem founder Susan Tellem, who is handling communications pro bono for the Santa Barbara district attorney during the Michael Jackson case. "Our PR crisis scale answers that question by ranking the severity compared to previous crises and outcomes."

Tellem envisions the scale as a tool that can help firms manage expectations and resources, giving them the best chance to repair an image and win back public and media trust.

According the scale, a level five crisis, the highest level, involves death or large amounts of destruction, such as the Staten Island Ferry Crash.

A level one crisis usually would involve silly celebrity antics that don't impair or damage a brand, such as the Britney Spears and Madonna MTV kiss and Winona Ryder's shoplifting episode.

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