Sunday, December 30, 2007

NeighborWorks: crisis communication at its best

The rules of crisis communication are often limited to what not to do, but you can also learn from the example of those who do it well. Today's Journal Gazette includes a great case study in how to work with the media to respond to a crisis communication situation: the page one, top-of-fold story about NeighborWorks. The organization's board president Jeff Vaughn and board member Rachel Blakeman both were cooperative with the media from the start and admitted where the organization was to blame, instead of stonewalling or offering up "no comment" as their only response. The result is a piece that, while certainly not positive for NeighborWorks, is fair and thorough. Anyone who knows Dan Stockman's work can appreciate his professionalism and willingness to dig deep when he's not given much to work with. Contrast today's piece with Dan's investigative work on the Olin B. and Desta Schwab Foundation, and you'll begin to see the value in being authentically cooperative and humble when your organization comes under scrutiny.

In the PR world, we call this "going ugly, early." But it's really just common sense. Working with a reporter to help them understand your side of the story, while difficult, puts your organization in a much better position than if you force the reporter to dig for information on his or her own.

Full disclosure: I have worked with NeighborWorks on crisis communication strategies in the past, but I was not involved in the story that ran today.

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