?PUBLIC RELATIONS IN CRISIS SITUATIONS. Public relations involves much more than communicating information and determining how, when and where to release it for maximum effect. This is especially true in crisis situations, where advance planning and having a predetermined strategy can minimize damages and help an organization respond more quickly. Literature suggests many principles of public relations, and various "dos and don'ts," which serve as guidelines for public relations activities. Yet every possibility cannot be anticipated. A crisis often involves an element of the unexpected, and much can be learned from examining actual situations and how they were handled effectively or ineffectively.
Crisis, or "emergency," situations which require public relations occur on a continuing basis in our society. It does not take a catastrophy for a situation to be an emergency. Any situation that may damage a person's or organization's name, position, reputation, sales, finances, opportunities, or relationships can be an emergency. Once an emergency happens it must be dealt with, but in many cases steps can be taken to prevent emergencies.
Ethical conduct in business and government is one preventive measure that reduces emergencies. Anyone who lies, creates false records, or who knowingly uses defective materials is creating a potential emergency. The best defense against this type of emergency is to follow ethical standards of behavior.
When conduct has not been ethical, the reaction to being discovered can reduce or complicate the problem. During the Watergate scandal, the White House became preoccupied with forcing its one and only chosen solution to fit the problem. Textbooks tell us that the problem should be clearly defined before selecting the most appropriate solution. But the White House decided to cover it up, and then it had to cover up parts of the cover up. The problem unfolded and grew more complex, an...