Sunday, June 13, 2004


Drip. Bad news breaks. The PR practitioner and company scramble to handle the story and media frenzy. Drip. An unknown part of the story surfaces. Another scramble ensues. Drip. Still more news surfaces -- and it is worse. Another scramble.

Drip-Drip-Drip. The story is out of control. New data emerges from every angle. There is nothing to do but to hang on and hope for the best.

Finally, matters settle. The whole story is out, and the media have gone their way. Drip. Another aspect of the story appears, and the scramble starts again.

If you have been through this kind of crisis, you know how demoralizing it can be. One can never get ahead. Most political crises work this way. The impeachment of President Richard Nixon evolved exactly this way. Little by little, piece by piece, the story appeared over months until it ground the presidency down.

It takes perseverance to hold on. One must have as many facts as possible and know where the organization stands. If the organization is an innocent bystander, it is easier than if the organization is at fault. But it is difficult either way, especially when hate mail and poisonous telephone calls flood the office and target you.

But if you feel bad, imagine what the Board, the CEO and employees are feeling. Their friends look at them oddly. They are asked unanswerable questions. They wonder why they ever got involved with this organization and why they continue to dedicate themselves to it.

At times like this a PR practitioner can be the most valuable resource a CEO has, but one needs to stay cool when everyone else is out of control and work the story. That's tough to do and some are not cut out for it. One also has to act quickly and to endure long hours. The best one can do is to lower one's head and plow forward day after day, hour after hour until it is over -- whenever that is. One works stubbornly, persistently, steadily. There won't be any miracles that will bail the organization out. There might be small victories when the media get something right but it won't affect the larger issue. Worse, one will not know for months how badly the scandal has tarnished the organization.



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