Week 1 Discussion

Chapter 1 talks quite a bit about crisis situations and crisis communication, our author also outlines the five stages of a crisis, as well as highlight’s White Star Line’s Titanic Sinks.

This week I want each of you to discuss the various theories presented in our readings, what they mean to you thus far into the semester, how you can see the various theories in application in a business setting, and how they relate directly to crisis communication.

In addition, from your workbooks, please choose EITHER one of the Activities or one of the Discussion/Essay from pg. 2 in the workbooks and address the question being asked. You can combine your responses.

Be sure to check back frequently through out the week, as I do comment and ask questions. It is also important that you respond to at least 2 classmates.


21 thoughts on “Week 1 Discussion

  1. Starting the reading in chapter 1, I quickly realized that I am extremely happy I took this class. I am often made fun of by my friends and family due to my obsession with “worst-case scenario” types of situations. Yes, I am the type of person that will look in my cupboards and think about how long we could survive on the non-perishable food we have in the house if a disaster were to strike. So this class seems perfect for the way my brain likes to wonder about certain scenarios. I think this way of thinking is important for any business to consider, especially in the age of social media. If a business has a person or a group of people who are constantly considering worst-case scenarios and preparing for such scenarios, it is important to have a plan and a quick public response. If a plan can be implemented quickly and communicated publicly in a speedy fashion, further damage can be averted. I also believe that social media is a useful tool in getting the message your company intends out to your publics unfiltered. Many times, a normal press conference’s intended message could be skewed by the media in a way that wasn’t intended. Social media is a direct unfiltered line to your audience. I believe that an initial response to a crisis is best served through a social media channel because of its quickness and directness to an audience. Press conferences and answering questions from the media should come afterward.

    I also agree with the books stance on why monitoring your competition is so important in avoiding and preparing for potential crises. The book refers to the Exxon Valdez spill, and talks about how the company created positive Alaskan tourism ads to help it reclaim some positive public perception on how the spill didn’t destroy the surrounding environment. I couldn’t help but think of the recent BP spill, and how it’s public relations team used the same tactic. Until BP released commercials that featured small business owners from the gulf coast claiming everything was okay and back to normal, BP was under constant public scrutiny. After the release of these ads, public opinion went from outrage to more of a passive feel, and BP was out from under the microscope of the press. It’s now obvious to me that someone in the PR team for the BP spill either worked on the Exxon Valdez spill, or is a student of similar PR tactics.

    The workbook asks a question on how the sinking of the Titanic would have been different if social media would have been present. First off, rescue efforts would have been much faster, as passengers would have been able to contact help much quicker, and would have likely been rescued before the ship went under. But to the PR related point, it would have been an even bigger PR nightmare for White Star. There would have been vast accounts of the companies wrong doing by survivors on social media sites that would have spotlighted the mishaps of the company’s mishandling of its preparation for such a crisis. Although social media can be a useful tool for companies to issue direct statements to it’s publics, it can also be an amplified weapon against an organization. People can spew any type of venom they wish as their opinions aren’t held to any factual standard. This can be destructive especially if rumors grow and get out of hand. The accounts of the Titanic’s press clippings are interesting, and instead of days I bet these sort of uninformed messages about the sinking would have been filtered out in a matter of minutes with social media sites.

    • I think you hit the right points regarding social media with Titanic situation. The major improvement would be the response of the rescue teams. As weird as it may sound, the captain of the ship or some of the passengers tweeting about their location and what was happening would have definitely reached more people in a shorter time. I remember the use of Twitter when the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. Rescue teams actually used Twitter to locate people and stay informed about the conditions in certain areas. I went to the #140conference that year and a young girl who actually survived the earthquake explained in detail how Twitter saved her life. It’s just one example of how the use of social media can make a difference in these types of crises.

      I also like that you pointed out how it could be just as much a con as it could a pro. With passengers and others tweeting in real time, White Star Line wouldn’t have had time to filter what exactly was being said. Before you know it, #WhiteFallingStar or #Titanic becomes a trending topic and the journalists start formulating their story based off the tweets. Not to mention what the survivors might say once they hit solid ground.

    • Great post, Sam! I agree with you on how the sinking of the Titanic would be different if social media would have been present. White Star would have had a worse PR problem. There would be video posts of what was going on, people would be tweeting and updating their Facebook statuses and they would have been calling various different people during all of the chaos. Since social media would have created a first-hand view for the people at home of how the Titanic was not prepared for the crisis it was facing, the White Star company would not have lasted as long as they did after the incident happened.

    • Great post, Sam! I agree with you on how the sinking of the Titanic would be different if social media would have been present. White Star would have had a worse PR problem. There would be video posts of what was going on, people would be tweeting and updating their Facebook statuses and they would have been calling various different people during all of the chaos. Since social media would have created a first-hand view for the people at home of how the Titanic was not prepared for the crisis it was facing, the White Star company would not have lasted as long as they did after the incident happened.

  2. Sam, one point that you didn’t quite say, but eluded to were “prodromes.” Early warning signs of a crisis prior to it hitting. Pre-planning is essential in crisis communiation, yet most organizations/companies rarely have crisis plans. Yes, believe it or not – they don’t. Why is that? Because one never knows when a crisis will hit. Therefore no pre-planning is done.

    This takes place in the detection phase of a crisis. While, as our author states “some crisis have no noticeable prodromes…many do” (p. 5), we as PR practitioners must prepare. In the Tylenol scare, killings via OTC drugs never happened before. However, for other OTC drug makers this incident was a large prodrome.


  3. Reading chapter one, it’s evident the book is basiclly stating “Stay on top of your business because you never know when danger will hit your company” as stated with the first of five signs, Detection. Detection was noted as coming from a mile away or coming from the issue of a bored journalist looking for a story. Having a crisis detection is perhaps the best advantage a company could have, which could spark brand loyalty and popularity in some cases.

    After reading majority of chapter one I can agree this class will teach me a lot in public relations, while providing me a credit in my major which will result in a win/win situation. Reading the five step plan for dealing with a crisis made me think back to every company crisis I’ve ever read, heard, or remembered and how each company has handled the situation is exactly the same, after piecing the book to the situations together.

    The Titanic story was an brilliant story as to how PR comes in handy for any situation, no matter how confident the company will become in any product.

    Todays way of PR is much faster and the use of twitter and youtube all contribute in a more faster, yet positive way to comminucate with both the members of their company and every public who the company intends on satisfying in the attempt of a crisis. Twitter and other ways of scoial media have displayed consistant success in changing the way PR meets the public.

    • I forgot to add, if social media was around for the titanic I do believe little to anyone would have died, but a crisis would have came from calling the titanic ünsinkable” to begin with. But, if Twitter was being used during those times, rescue efforts would have met the titanic before the ice burg could even make contact, due to the speed at which, social media runs at today

      • I agreed with the social media saving lives, but then the cruise ship sank this weekend, and it made me re-think my position. People have died in this most recent sinking. Although I think twitter and facebook allow for identifying the need for help almost instantaneously, it doesn’t necessarily help in the rescue efforts. Social media may destroy public opinion about the captian, who abandoned his ship, and now faces criminal charges.

      • Oops, I commented with my sports blog login. It didn’t show up, so I’ll just summarize again. I originally agreed that social media would have saved lives in the Titanic sinking, but after the recent sinking of another cruise ship, my position has changed a bit. Social media would allow for instant identification of the need for help, but not necessarily help the rescue efforts themselves. The captain is getting killed in the court of public opinion for leaving the sinking ship, and social media is helping the public outcry. He now faces criminal charges.


    • You’re right. Detection is a huge advantage for a company. After all, it can be the determining factor as to whether the company will experience a crisis or deflect it before any harm is done. This is where the job of a PR practitioner really comes in handy. One of the must-have skills of a PR professional is the ability to do research. It’s one of the strong points in the foundation for building a career in PR. We’re paid to find these hints and clues that have harmed other companies and inform our company leaders of what can be done to prevent it from happening to us. As stated in the book about Titanic, the people at White Star Line had the ‘it won’t happen to us’ mentality and that’s essentially what messed them up. Even if a company is 200% confident in their product, it’s still good business sense to have a back-up plan. You never know what can happen, how fast it can happen, and how fast the news can spread. The author even said that not only was the crew unprepared for the flooding, but they would have been worse off if it had been a fire. You kind of have to live by Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” It may seem like you’re just worrying yourself about scenarios that may never happen, but in the long run it’s going to be less work being proactive than trying to react once something has happened.

      • I kind of always live by that Murphy’s Law type of motto. Some people feel as though I am a pessimist, but I think that I just like to be mentally prepared for worst-case scenarios. If I’ve imagined the problem previous to it actually happening, I can react quickly and without much mental strife. It’s the problems that catch me off guard that cause me the most strife in my own personal life. I think this way of thinking can be directly applied to PR and crisis management in a business. If you are prepared for problems and crises, dealing with them isn’t as difficult.


  4. For a chapter that just teaches you the fundamentals, chapter 1 was great! Like Sam, after reading this chapter I’m even more excited about taking this class. I’ve always been the type of person to kind of pick analyze different scandals/problems I see in the media. I think with the topics we’ll be discussing in this course, I’ll be able to see understand things better from the company’s end and just a member of the public. Also, it’s easy for me to just say what I would have done, but now I’ll know exactly why I would have done it that way. Last year, I was taking both a PR and business ethics class and I think it’s these courses that really sparked my interest in crises. In fact, I even went as far as to conduct a research project focused just on case studies involving companies with both positive and negative results after a crisis. The five stages of handling a crisis outlined in this chapter were actually the skeleton for the whole project.

    I thought the way the book explained each stage with a great example really helped me visualize being in that position, which in turn helped me understand the step a little better. The stage that stood out to me the most was containment. Not necessarily whether the company can contain the problem, but how the try to contain it. I think it’s at this point that most companies lose their footing and really go downhill. I would think the biggest reason is because they lie or withhold all information from the media. No one likes being lied to, so when companies are caught (they usually are), the trust decreases and the reputation takes a negative hit. Plus, leaving gaps for the media and publics to fill in only makes the problem worse especially now with the speed of social media. A business having a PR team who can either train the spokesperson or be the spokesperson themselves can really be effective in allowing the business time get everything under control while still keeping that connection with the publics. Of course the others steps are equally as important, I just think once the crisis has hit the containment stage is where everything is put on the line and where companies could use the most help.

    In the workbook, one of the activities was to study websites and look at the different aspects of the site and see how it represented the company. I focused on two main ones: Johnson & Johnson and BP. On first glance the sites are very well organized and just enough color to where it’s not dull. The links are clearly labeled and pretty easy to follow on both sites. They both have good use of bullet points and one sentence paragraphs. I will say the lime green, size 9 or 10 text on BP’s site irritates the eye after a while. The workbook asked if they addressed past or current issues. I would have to say BP did a great job in addressing issues, understandably so. On the home page, the very first thing you see is a video focusing on the continued clean-up of the Gulf. I think this shows that they aren’t trying to push the issue into the background. On the side panel they have a section just for Gulf Restoration links like tracking progress and right below that are more restoration links that explain what they’re doing to clean up. BP uses a lot of videos and pictures with their pages which is always good in trying to support statements. I was almost overwhelmed with how much information BP had on their site. From one page to the next the links and bullet lists kept coming. They are definitely trying to cover all their bases. Johnson & Johnson on the other hand have fewer links related to crises and some of those links don’t even work. Not exactly the best look. They do use pictures but they are all of families smiling and laughing. Nothing about their past issues seems to be easy to access. I guess it’s true you don’t want the negative out in front, but you also don’t want to try and pretend it never happened.

    • I really enjoyed what you wrote about the websites. I especially like your post’s last sentence. A business should never try to hide their past. They need to learn from it and move on (but they should never forget what happened). I like how BP does supply a lot of information on their website but I think they need to figure out a way to organize it better (like you said, it can become a little bit overwhelming). The fact that Johnson & Johnson has links that don’t work is a little disappointing (since it is a well-known company). To have multiple links that don’t work seems careless and sloppy to me. It makes the company look like they don’t take care of their resources for their publics and that can lead to damage of their public image.

  5. Whew. That’s quite a bit of information for a first chapter. After reading, one glaring truth lit brightly in my mind– crisis is inevitable.

    No matter how popular, how big, how important or even how “unsinkable” an idea, product or company can become, crises can– and will– happen. Murphy’s Law at its finest. There is a division of every company created specifically for its management, an entire job field dedicated to preventing, dampening and solving these massive problems.

    Like classmate csquared, I’m actually particularly impressed with the book’s breakdown of each stage of a crisis. It helped me to identify a sort of chaotic mindset of a situation. How much of the list is actually in the control of the PR practitioner? As the book insinuates, or at least as I interpreted, the majority of control comes after the crisis event. Simply put, once something happens, it has happened. Yes, there is a certain amount of prevention control, but after the big uh-oh is when taking control is possible and vital.

    It seems to me the actual crisis happens between steps. The book states 1. Detection; 2. Prevention/preparation. The actual event, whatever that may be, actually hasn’t occurred. 3. Containment tells me “Hey, it happened,” when prevention/preparation said “Hey, it’s going to happen.” I propose stage 2.5– Crisis event occurrence. The actual moment when the proverbial shit hits the fan.

  6. As others have stated, I am quite impressed with chapter one. I really liked how it explained the difference between crisis communications and crisis management. Even though they are two different functions, they can sometimes be mistaken for the same thing.
    Personally, I am very intrigued by crisis communication. I am always interested in seeing what the next move for a company in crisis will be. Though, I must admit that I’ve always pitied the person who ends up being “the face” for an organization during a crisis (as the media seems to take merciless aim at that specific person). Something that was written in chapter one really stood out to me about this topic. Fearn-Banks wrote, “In a crisis, when everyone else is in a state of panic, public relations practitioners must offer a calming presence: ‘This is not as bad as it seems,’ or ‘This could be worse. We cannot turn crises into catastrophes. This is what we do…’” (Fearn-Banks, 4). The person who is “the face” of the organization has to be just that. They must remain calm and collected in order to do what is best for the company. When the PR practitioner is in a calm state of mind, they are able to answer any type of questions the media and their publics may throw at them (and that not only looks good but it creates a great sense of trust in the company the PR practitioner is representing). It may be a rough job but somebody has to do it. And if that somebody has the knowhow, they will be one of the most respected sources of information for that organization if another crisis where to come about again.
    I found the section on public opinion one of the most interesting sections in chapter one. In the public relations field, public opinion is crucial to the success of any PR plan (whether it is a crisis communication plan or another specific type of plan). I love when the author wrote, “In contrast to a U.S. court of law where a person is innocent until proven guilty, in the court of public opinion, a person or organization is guilty until proven innocent” (Fearn-Banks, 9). This sentence says it all! When was the last time you heard about a specific crisis (such as the BP oil spill) and thought that the company was innocent of all charges before you thought they were guilty? I completely agree with the author when she said that in order to change public opinion, a PR practitioner must use the news media as a tool to reach the public (Fearn-Banks, 9). In today’s world, almost everyone has some sort of digital device that allows them to gain access to a type of news media. Most people have some kind of social media account. That being said, a PR practitioner that did not use this tool during a crisis to monitor the public opinion would be a fool.
    Reading about the five stages of a crisis was really fascinating. All five are critical for organizations to do. Though it was extremely short, I really liked the crisis preparation section. I believe that companies take it for granted sometimes that they are not in a crisis so they feel that they do not need a crisis communications plan. As the author pointed out, Pepsi never imagined that they would have to deal with the problem caused by the hypodermic syringes that were found in the cans of Diet Pepsi (Fearn-Banks, 7). If a company takes the time to make a crisis communications plan, they’ll be prepared to react in a good way towards something that could be detrimental if they weren’t prepared.
    Students definitely have used social media during their own personal crises. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Youtube, WordPress, and so on, have been used to gain support, get reactions or advice or even just to vent about certain personal crises. I believe that sometimes this type of communication can be very effective for the person using it to relieve themselves of certain stresses and concerns. Though, I must say that when people are using these tools to vent about issues that are not crises, the tools become useless for that user (as others will start to ignore their complaints over minuscule issues). Also, this type of communication (just like when businesses use it) can have a negative-side and if not done properly, a person’s good image can be ruined.

  7. Chapter One, starts out every imformative by taking us back to older technologies and to where we are now. One interesting fact out of Chapter One that i thought should have been more emphasize own are the technology of cell phones. It points out very important crisis facts for example like Katrina situation, but i think the book should have more importantly
    emphasized how cell phones are the world’s significant piece of technology that will be key in any given crisis situation anyone can come across. For example, Titantic situation, if some one wanted to reach their blog, social network, and had no means of a computer; guess what? I know for a fact you will have your phone near by, with advanced technolgical means of getting a crisis situation communicated across the world within seconds via social networks.
    Activity 2

    Taking one social media from the list, You Tube, which is so important to our society today. You Tube have been one of the social medias that all countries around the world has taking within their own hands in making it their primary source of communication to communicate with various races and cultures across the nation. For example, in recent news there were U.S. soldiers spotted “urinating” on the dead, which was displayed by You Tube. You Tube is one tool of communication that means a great deal to U.S. and as you can see other various parts of the world, too. Everytime I’ve logged onto You Tube, i get about 21,000,000 results rather if it was a post from today, or from 1960; there is always communication sited through You Tube from across the world. You Tube is also a great communcation tool that deals with everyday disasters that can grasp one’s attention, support, or concern from anyone at anytime. You Tube is a crisis coomunication tool that can make people aware of what is going on around them and their families at any given time.

    Also i wish we had a “like button” because im liking everyone’s response thus far!

  8. The Titanic italian cruse ship are exactly alike. Both seems to have had too much confidence in their ship and with little to no PR both will end with a very bad reputation. The Italian cruse ship can only seperate itself from the famed titanic by actually including PR and using the up-to-date resources we have today, including socal networking and possibily a PR release explaining what they plan to do to rebuild their, now-damaged rep.

  9. I took this class because I’ve always been interested in crisis communications. To me it’s like “being the peace keeper” of a company or business’ image. After I began reading, I knew parts of crisis communication but I quickly learned there is just so much more about it.

    When someone does something wrong, I automatically assume that they’re going to apologize. When learning about the Apologia Theory, I learned that it’s more then just apologize, there are different strategies such as denial, explanation, and actually apologizing. When the world learned about Bill Clinton’s affair, he first denied then told the truth, which lead him to apologize. I can see why a person would first deny that they did anything wrong because Bill knew it wouldn’t only harm his reputation and his career but hurt his family. One thing I learned from this theory is that it’s always better to be honest.

    The Image Restoration Theory is probably my favorite out of all the theories. I really like the idea of taking someone or a company with a bad reputation and recreating them to have a good image. In reference to the textbook, CEO of Exxon Lawrence Rawl, damaged his image by not addressing the issue or accept responsibility. In my opinion, when something goes wrong, people are quickly to blame others. Lawrence should have been down where the spill occurred and doing everything he can as a CEO and I believe that would of helped his reputation. If I was Rawl’s PR person, I would of definitely recommended him to get off his high horse and go down there as soon as possible. I would have also encouraged him to continue to help there area by doing donations to the community to show that he actually does care about the community and the effect the oil spilled had on it. If Rawl used social media to track the good and show that he’s doing for the community the spill effected and what he’s doing to improve the situation, it might have helped his situation.

    When I think about the Decision Theory, I think of high management position who are making all the decisions which could be a dangerous thing because there decisions could potentially do good or harm to themselves or the company. Which can cause a lot of stress for that person. A quality the management should have is be able to handle stress well and in my opinion that’s something that drives me to work harder.

    I think the diffusion theory because of the five step process: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption/failure to adopt. I believe that this process helps you realize the crisis and help one fix it. I think that this theory would be one of the most important theories in a business setting.

    The excellence theories have different models which are useful to any business. I like how the textbook explains what each model is and then gives you an example of it.

    • I like your title of a crisis communicator as a “peace keeper” but I rather look at crisis communicators as “patience sweepers,” I think dealing with crisis most people are losing control, but a pr person that is face with crisis situations are suppose to be the ones that is keeping things together, when everything else is falling apart behind them.

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