Drive By Crisis

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You’re a responsible brand. You may push the envelope every so often, but you pay attention to what’s happening and respond in timely ways allowing you to avert any kind of major PR crisis. You go to bed after having watched the NFL’s replacement refs botch ANOTHER game on Sunday September 23rd (New England vs. Baltimore), with all sorts of warm fuzzies in your tummy because of the epic performance of Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. You’re confident in your brand, having monitored Facebook and Twitter for mentions of Johns Hopkins in any way. Then you wake up to this:

You of course immediately think this person is an insane person who probably has no prospects of working for any kind of respectable organization because…well…she’s a crazy person, right? Who insults someone whose brother had been killed in a horrific accident less than 24 hours ago? A crazy person. Then the emails start.

Oh no. Someone connected to your brand has done something totally outside of your control. Luckily, people have separated your brand (JHU in this example) from the moron behind the “joke.” That doesn’t always happen, though. You need to be prepared to take action for what I like to refer to as the Drive By Crisis. This is a crisis that comes literally out of nowhere. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent it, and all you can do is hope to contain it (also, I apparently watch way too much SportsCenter). How do you contain something like this?

The first step is to not overreact. Frankly, if people have already done the hard part for you (separate brand from idiot), then there’s nothing to be done. However, if they demand that your employee face some kind of reprimand, or even termination, you can address THAT situation. It’s important to not let an angry mob dictate an HR decision. You can strongly rebuke what your employee has done or said, and address the matter internally. This SHOULD be enough to pacify most people.

The most terrifying thing about this situation is that you can’t predict what anyone will do or say that is employed by your organization. This is why listening trumps engagement as the most important part about public relations. Your message, no matter how awesome it is, means nothing if it is being undercut by some stupid person that just so happens to draw a paycheck from you.

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