August 24, 2010
As Big Corporations Become Increasingly Mired in Crises, is PR's Crisis-Management Role In Need of Revision? Industry Experts Say No — Full Transparency is Still the Best BetIn a banner year for corporate crisis, three of the biggest culprits all made the same critical mistake. Toyota, BP and Goldman Sachs all exacerbated their woes by either declining to fess up promptly, casting blame elsewhere or striking adversarial postures with the public, the government and the media. "There's not a lot of news when the company takes responsibility and moves on," said Ketchum's James Donnelly. "The good crisis-management examples rarely end waving the flag of victory. They end with a whisper, and it's over in a day or two," the NY Times reports.
"These were real reputational implosions," says Howard Rubenstein, the public relations luminary who represents the New York Yankees and the News Corporation. "In all three cases, the companies found themselves under attack over the very traits that were central to their strong global brands and corporate identities," he added, the NY Times reports.
But recent months have featured little whispering and a good deal of high-decibel theatrics: sirens headed to another Toyota accident; recriminations over how birds in the Gulf of Mexico became covered in black goo; debate over the propriety of Goldman selling investments engineered to fail. The basic facts were so unpalatable that they subdued the cleansing power of the American industrial additive known as spin. Which raises a question: Are some crises so dire that public relations victory is simply not on the menu? And, if so, what's an embattled company to do?, reports Times writer Peter S. Goodman.