Outcomes decide why a CEO should address a crisis

My last post talked about five "rules" of crisis management that have become a kind of gospel for TV pundits.

My last post talked about five "rules" of crisis management that have become a kind of gospel for TV pundits.

Put the CEO out front. Keep the lawyers from running communications. Help the media do its job. Protect the brand. And, above all - get all the bad news out at once.

I'll go out on a limb here. If you get asked to comment on another company's crisis, think twice about whether to do it at all. You may want that company as a client someday. Memories are long. But if you do, don't just mouth the "rules." Each has plenty of exceptions. Communicators do themselves no favors perpetuating the myth that there's a crisis playbook.

You can't always put the CEO out front. If the crisis is severe, he or she is certainly thinking first about avoiding bad outcomes: lost business or devalued shares, or in the worst case, jail time or innocent people dying. Your CEO may not embrace the proposed crisis response, the words may feel forced, or she or he is simply no good in the role and should be held in reserve. Tony Hayward gives ammo to all sides.

Before you jump to the conclusion that another company's CEO should be "out there," understand what's in her or his head. CEOs are accomplished individuals who have attained high levels of success in large part because they control their environments. Few will step forward in crisis until they see a connection to some measure of control.

Yes, many see crises as a chance to show leadership, or protect hard-earned reputation, but getting the CEO "out there" has to be a real difference-maker for both operational and communications success or it won't - or shouldn't - happen.

Larry Kamer is public affairs practice leader and MD at The Glover Park Group.

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