I was speaking yesterday with a marketing and PR person at a writing convention. This man is essentially responsible for a good aprt of the topics and guests on television and radio shows, because he publishes a directory of potential experts and guests for the industry. He said something that tell a lot about the country, public perception, and business. Remember what happened last week, before the Virginia Tech shootings? If you mentioned universities the talk would have been of financial aid personnel taking kickbacks from sources of money. Or, and I'll add this one in, it might have been of universities complaining about the school listings of U.S. News & World Report (and a disclaimer, I've written for the publication a few times in the past). In either case, schools did not seem like candidates for sympathy or public concern. Now they're nothing but.
Companies often try to cover up problems they have, but for the vast majority of these issues, that's pointless and damaging, as any expert in crisis communications would tell you. They may have various theories, but it really comes down to a) if you start doing the right thing, people stop being so harsh, and b) when you cover up, you extend the life of teh story. If you don't extend the story life, something else will come along to push it out of the headlines. It's another case where the right thing is also the smart thing.
Labels: crisis communications, PR, universities