Friday, November 18, 2011

PR Can't Prevent Or Fix Bad Managment

The Penn State Football "crisis" has become a public relations problem for the University, but it started as a failing leadership/management problem.

I always say, "Doing the right thing is almost always the right thing to do."  That may seem trite, but consider the whole Penn State dilemma.  If the Head Coach and the Athletic Director and the Chief of the Campus Police and the President of the University had each done the "right thing" to begin with, there would have been a relatively smaller PR problem and the bigger problem -- sexual abuse of young boys -- would have been stopped sooner.

It doesn't matter what your organization does -- make millions playing football, manufacture widgets, provide a service or sell those widgets -- doing the right thing as soon as you discover someone in your organization is not, will save you potentially thousands if not millions of dollars in lost business or support and legal fees and settlements.

We have been called by potential clients in crisis and want us to fly in a fix it.  I always ask what the organization is doing, or going to do to fix "it."  And I often get this reponse -- "we're not sure, but while we decide what to do, we want you to come in and do your thing."

Our "thing" is to help leadlership explain what they are doing to their internal audiences, first, and then to all the important audiences outside.  We can't, really we won't, cover for a poor or indecisive leader.  We WILL help a management/leadership team identify what the real problem(s) are, and suggest steps they can and should take, and how to explain what they have decided to do or not do.

But, in most cases, when you see a business, hospital, university or other organization in negative news  headlines, the crisis was probably smoldering for weeks or months or in the case of Penn State
for years before it figuratively blew up in their faces. 

We call those "smoldering crises" and two-thirds of all organizational crises are the smoldering type.

They start out small and are undetected or ignored, and as a result they get bigger and potentially more dangerous and then, inevitably they explode in public view. Causing much more damage than they would have had they been dealt with when they first were discovered.

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