Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crisis communication, a guest post

We are pleased to have the first "guest post" to the PRSSA blog from this week's speaker, Valerie Elston of Levick Strategic Communications. You're encouraged to attend Wedensday's meeting at 6:30 p.m. in room 150 in the SLC.


The spirit of the Bulldog Nation permeated the Beltway this past week as the Hoop Dawgs arrived to face-off against Xavier in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Leaving work that week, I spotted two men on the street dressed in UGA gear and yelled out "Go Dawgs" as our paths crossed. As I was walking down Baxter Street to the Stadium on game day, I heard an enthusiastic "Go Dawgs" ring out from amongst the heavy pedestrian traffic in response.

The spontaneous exchange reminded me how strong the UGA community is, even outside of Georgia. Our Grady community is especially strong so I look forward to sharing with y'all some of the experiences I have had working in crisis communication at Levick Strategic Communications during Wednesday's PRSSA meeting.

Every day the media draws our attention to another crisis: housing woes, product recalls, financial troubles, or the misdeeds of our leaders. For the modern student of PR, learning the skills to craft and implement a crisis communications plan should not be an elective, but a part of the core curriculum. Regardless of whether you see yourself specializing in crisis communication, the ability to know when and how to respond, should the inevitable happen, is invaluable.

Levick has directed global strategic crisis communications engagements in the highest-profile matters including the Catholic Church scandals, the national spinach E-coli scare, the pet food and toy recalls of 2007, and a number of the most significant matters rising out of the Middle East.

I can honestly say that as an undergraduate I never saw myself working at a PR agency. However, when the time came to leave my first job at the State Department I saw Levick as an opportunity and challenge. Both sentiments proved to be correct. I have spent the past five months learning to think strategically about the tactics necessary to help our clients win in the high-stakes communications arena.

Have you considered the following when thinking about the strategies and tactics for your next crisis plan:

  • How would you create positive relations and impressions for your client or company among key stakeholders?

  • How would you leverage those results to position clients favorably in their region, state, country, or marketplace?

  • What tactics would you use to drive the right type and volume of communication and recognition that tells your story effectively to the most important audiences?

While there is no one, sure-fire strategy for success, working at Levick has taught me some of the best practices for developing successful campaigns. I hope you will be able to join me for a discussion about the importance of crisis communication, as well as some of the best practices and lessons I have learned while working at Levick.

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