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
Agency leaders must educate different enterprises about issues
management, crisis communications and effective communications
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
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
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
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.