Can You Handle the Difficult Questions

from The New York Times comes a helpful primer of communication “do’s” and “don’ts” as seen by a range of crisis managers in the professional PR priesthood.

Of course, there’s anything but universal agreement on how best to handle a crisis, but one thing is universal and certain: Some plan is better than no plan.

In Case of Emergency: What Not to Do

Whoever suggested that all publicity is good publicity clearly never envisioned the wave of catastrophe engulfing high-profile corporations over the last year, laying waste to some of the most meticulously tailored reputations on earth.

… As conventional wisdom has it, the three companies at the center of these fiascos worsened their problems by failing to heed established protocol: When the story is bad, disclose it immediately – awful parts included – lest you be forced to backtrack and slide into the death spiral of lost credibility.

Exhibit A in the lesson book on forthright crisis management is the mass recall of Tylenol in 1982, after the deaths of seven people who ingested tainted painkillers. Johnson & Johnson promptly acknowledged that some of its product had been poisoned and pulled bottles off store shelves.

In the view of many who are paid to extract corporations from terrible situations, Toyota, BP and Goldman exacerbated their woes by either declining to fess up promptly, casting blame elsewhere or striking adversarial postures with the public, the government and the news media.