26 April 2016
By Elaine Murphy
Last Thursday a crowd of more than thirty PR and communications professionals and students gathered in the Clarion Hotel, Cork City for a discussion on “Crisis Communications in the Age of 24 Hour Media”.
The event was moderated by Emmett Coffey, MPRII and Course Director of CIT’s Masters in Public Relations and New Media, and featured a panel of:
- Ann-Marie O’Sullivan, FPRII, Founder of AM O’Sullivan PR;
- Eoin English, Senior News Reporter with the Irish Examiner; and
- Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director of Cork Airport.
The intention of the panel was to have the perspective of the communications professional, senior management and journalists all inform our discussion. There was a very lively and informed debate and the panel discussion which commenced at 7pm did not conclude until well past 8:30pm.
With such a lively debate a lot of ground was covered, from the fact that all crises are not necessarily bad, to the values and pitfalls of off-the-record briefings.But if you were to distill the discussion down to three points, they were:
The key to responding well to a crisis is not great reactive crisis skills. Rather, you need great planners who are prepared and well drilled;
an outside perspective can be crucial, as frequently those within the organisation are too caught up in the issue, or their own jargon, to be able to explain and engage with the external stakeholders at a time of crisis; and the ideal spokesperson is someone in authority who is fully briefed. The media dimension cannot be ignored, and people expect to see senior managers explaining the situation.