LAST CALL: Key to good crisis comms often lies in telling thetruth

YSI, a measurement products company in Yellow Springs, OH, has an interesting crisis management technique that a few companies currently in the spotlight might want to try: When you screw up, tell the truth before the regulators are knocking on your door.

YSI, a measurement products company in Yellow Springs, OH, has an interesting crisis management technique that a few companies currently in the spotlight might want to try: When you screw up, tell the truth before the regulators are knocking on your door.

When YSI got a call from a local newspaper reporter last spring asking it if knew about the state testing for ground water contamination around its 13-acre plant, the company began its own testing, and started interviewing current and former employees to see if anyone could recall anything the company had done that might have meant dumping chemicals into the local water supply.

When it discovered that employees at one time had been dumping a chemical called TCA in a parking lot, they concluded that they had indeed been doing something wrong.

Instead of trying to cover it up, the company decided to acknowledge what it had done, and accept any penalties the state might impose. "We didn't have to talk anyone in the company into that approach, and that was refreshing, says Lisa Abel, whose title, leader of sustainability strategies, relates to the company's ongoing environmental efforts.

By coming clean, YSI garnered favorable coverage in the local business press and kudos from residents.

Abel says the company felt it had no choice. Its mission statement talks about protecting the earth's resources and enhancing human life. About 50% of its business involves making equipment to monitor water quality.

"The idea of doing the right thing is embedded in our culture, she says.

Wouldn't it be nice if more companies could say that?

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