An often-overlooked aspect of crisis communication is knowing when and how
to shift into recovery mode once the crisis has passed.

Some authors, including me at times, use a gun-fight analogy to talk about preparing for, and responding to, a crisis. -- Always watch for trouble, don't draw until it's absolutely necessary, be sure of your target, aim carefully but shoot fast, etc. -- It's a fun and somewhat appropriate, albeit overly dramatic, way of being ready for a crisis. The problem is: it leads people to think everything instantly goes back to normal when the "shooting" stops.

Unfortunately, that's not true. Not for gun-fights, and not for public relations crises. There's a very messy and sometimes prolonged aftermath. It can include caring for the wounded, clarifying underlying causes, making changes to prevent further crises, reassuring the public, and re-establishing a sense of security. None of these things happen automatically. Nor do they happen overnight. And, regrettably, they're often not addressed by crisis management gurus.

A similar observation was made in a recent online article by Mark Dollins and Laurel Kennedy in CW, IABC's Communication World Magazine. Both of them have extensive, high-level public relations experience and have helped guide corporations through major crises. As they see it: "The acute phase of crisis communication is well documented, crisis recovery is less understood and equally critical."

So, what they have proposed is a five-step process for crisis recovery and reputation repair that can help an organization get past its crisis and ultimately return to business as usual. Here are the five steps they address more fully in their article:

  • "Recognize the acute crisis has ended, time for a shift to recovery mode.
  • "Recalibrate activities, assess the damage to the company, brand.
  • "Repair reputation, articulate an outreach strategy for key stakeholders.
  • "Redirect negative dialogue, preempt with positive programming.
  • "Reinvigorate brand values and the stated social contract."

Personally, I don't like some of the jargon they use, but their basic approach and underlying ideas are very sound and deserve serious consideration. It's a much better approach to the aftermath of a crisis than Wyatt Earp standing in the street blowing the smoke away from the barrel of his trusty six-shooter.

More about crisis communication.     

:  Initially created to support the public relations courses I taught at Northern Kentucky University, it's now used as a supplemental text in scores of university courses worldwide. It's also used as a reference or refresher by PR professionals, especially those preparing for accreditation or certification exams. Since I retired, site updates are no longer on a strict schedule but usually occur every 6-8 weeks.

Michael Turney, Ph.D., ABC, Professor Emeritus
Northern Kentucky University

Media relations aren't what they used to be.

Media relations is an integral part of public relations. It's not the most important element, but it is necessary to maintain effective public relations. And, it's correspondingly critical that practitioners be up-to-date in how they try to work with the media.

Let's be clear. None of this applies to working with President Trump, his White House staff, fake news, and the appalling hostility between the President and the press. They are so far beyond the pale -- and, I hope will soon disappear -- they need not be included in any general overview of media relations.

In an earlier article, I wrote "media relations should be a mutually beneficial two-way street with PR practitioners and journalists cooperating to provide consumers with the most accurate and reliable information possible." Sadly, this is more idealistic than many people act today. Nonetheless, PR people and journalists are co-dependent, and they and the public benefit when they have a positive working relationship.

Reporters, editors, and others who operate in this way believe news should be accurate, fact-based, objective, free of reporters' and editors' opinions, and as balanced as possible. And, the news stories they report are chosen for their significance, relevance, and public impact, not their salaciousness or the involvement of a celebrity.

In answer to those who say we're now getting more information more quickly than ever before, and it's coming from more sources, I have to say: that's true, but a lot of it is pure crap. It comes faster, but it isn't any better. In fact, much of it is worse. It hasn't been confirmed by multiple sources and carefully edited, so it's neither accurate nor reliable. Most of it isn't even proof-read. It's hazy first impressions, rumor, speculation, and opinion presented as fact.

It is, therefore, critical that thoughtful practitioners re-think what they can expect from media relations and take steps to only work with reporters and editors who still believe in traditional values and ethics.

Read a longer version of this article.     


Online readings
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How-to tips
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Strategic & tactical
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Public Relations
during a crisis

Must-read books
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site users


Doing public relations doesn't require you
to call yourself a PR practitioner.

It's certainly not a catchy or sexy job title.

"Public relations practitioner" is actually a pretty pitiful title for someone who is supposed to present people, organizations, and ideas in interesting and meaningful ways. What's captivating about that title?

Wouldn't you rather have a more interesting title? - How about ...

  • "fact arranger"
  • "message massager"
  • "friend raiser" or
  • "bridge builder?"

I'd certain prefer one of these, but perhaps that's because I love words and word play. But, I also think they reflect my creativity, language skills, and self-confidence, all important attributes for a public relations professional.

Admittedly, some of these alternatives may not be within everyone's comfort zone or, possibly, their employer's tolerance level. They may be too smart-alecky or not serious enough, but I love clever, thought-provoking job titles. They make listeners do a double-take or sometimes mutter, "Hunhh?" But, once they're explained, most people nod and say something like: "Oh, yeah. Now I get it. That's clever."

My personal title is bridge-builder. I've used it on business cards and letterheads for more than I decade. And, long before that, I used it to introduce myself and explain what I did. But, the university forbade me to put it on my business cards while I worked there. Now, however, I can put whatever I want on my business cards, and I like "bridge builder." It's catchy, and it's equally appropriate for what I do as a public relations consultant and what I did as a teacher. I've been building bridges of communication my entire professional life.

Read the full version of this article.     

This site was on Northern Kentucky University servers while I taught there, and it remained there for quite a while after I retired.
Then the university announced it would no longer support "personal faculty websites" like this one, and I had to move it.

NOTE TO PHONE USERS: This is the only page on this site formatted for easy reading on a phone-sized screen. The site is best viewed on a desktop or full-sized laptop.
Updated: 8/03/2018