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Steven R. Van Hook
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Crisis Management Moments
Making the most of a bad situation.
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by Steven R. Van Hook, PhD

The word crisis comes from the Greek krisis, meaning "decision." We've all been there. Those momentsBomb! when we're pressed in an instant to decide a course of action. Move to the left, or move to the right. Fight or flee. Offer an explanation, or dummy up tight.

It's a true test of what we are, either as a company or a person, how we handle ourselves in the middle of a crisis. The bad news is we never know for sure how we'll do until it's test time. The good news is we can prepare ourselves in principle.    

There are three smart ways to approach crisis situations:

1) Avoid a crisis in the first place (a pinch of prevention is worth a mound of cure);
2) Quickly address and resolve crisis issues before they escalate;
3) Seek possible ways to turn your crisis into an opportunity.

Here's a classic model of how a crisis can be turned into an opportunity for good PR:

In 1986 someone put capsules poisoned with lethal amounts of cyanide in Johnson and Johnson bottles of Tylenol on store shelves. Before anyone could do anything, seven people died from the poisoned medicine. The company met the crisis head-on. First, they spent $300-million recalling all samples of the medicine bottles. 

Then the company introduced new tamper-proof medicine containers that changed the entire industry. But most importantly, the company was prepared, it acted coolly, they answered the tough questions, and in the end maintained their dominance in the market. They used the media to demonstrate their concern and their determination to resolve the crisis. It was a message of courage and leadership through effective public relations. 

Click on over to the next page, and you'll find more crisis case studies -- a real one from California, and a hypothetical from Russia.

  Next page > More Crisis Case Studies > Page 1, 2





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