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Execs Tackle Crisis Management

June 2014

Speakers Wow Audience at I95 Business Crisis Cliff Event

(Left to Right): Ed Norris, Vicki Franz, Rob Weinhold and Marianne Banister. Photo by Leo Hepner

(Left to Right): Ed Norris, Vicki Franz, Rob Weinhold and Marianne Banister. Photo by Leo Hepner

Presented by I95 BUSINESS in its inaugural Business Leadership Series, The Crisis Cliff seminar was held May 8 at the Mt. Washington Conference Center. Area executives gathered to hear from three nationally known experts on the various tactics and strategies needed to prepare for and manage corporate crisis.


7 Categories of a Crisis – Examples

1. Natural Disaster – Hurricane Katrina
2. Technological – BP Oil Spill
3. Confrontation – Protests over company actions
4. Malevolence – Death threat on an executive
5. Organizational Misdeeds – Enron Scandal
6. Workplace Violence – Shooting at Atlanta FedEx
7. Business Relations – Clippers Owner Donald Sterling

It’s easy to illustrate how quickly a public relations or legal disaster can spin into a crisis – L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a perfect case study as he continues to make insensitive comments. Paula Deen’s fall from grace was as equally swift. Susan G. Komen created a PR nightmare when the organization’s leadership chose to defund Planned Parenthood. The local mall shooting in Columbia and the recent assault on the WMAR-TV newsroom are examples of the worst type of crises, particularly when lives are lost or threatened.

Crisis and reputation management expert Rob Weinhold, Fallston Group, award-winning television journalist Marianne Banister, Banister Media, and former cop now radio personality Ed Norris, 105.7 The Fan, illustrated many ways business executives can be tripped up. Weinhold led off the event by teaching attendees how to deal with a crisis from a leadership and strategic standpoint. “It’s much better to get out in front and tell your company’s story before someone else does. Crises cost time, money, customers and careers,” said Weinhold. Detailing different categories of crises (see sidebar), Weinhold illustrated how a “crisis is always lurking around the corporate corner.” He emphasized the importance for business leaders to conduct social media audits and know what is being said about them in the digital world. “Executives must know what the public and employees are saying online about your company,” he said.

“I’ve been to many seminars, both national and local, and the level of integrity and relevance I95 BUSINESS brought to the table was both fascinating and engaging. What a great group of professionals to address such a controversial issue. Ed Norris was a refreshing insight into how to attack and evaluate crisis management.” – Brian Wessel, Chesapeake Testing

Banister brought an insider’s perspective on how to manage your image in the public media forum. As a journalist with decades of experience, Banister was able to share her experiences from the other side of the microphone. “You have one shot to get it right because it’s out there permanently,” she said, and reminded attendees that videos posted online never go away. She stressed that people decide in the first 10-15 seconds whether to trust you during an interview. She also recommended that executives set time limits for the interview, know whether it will be live or recorded, and ask key questions before committing to an interview. “Never say, ‘No comment,’ know your legal rights, buy yourself preparation time, know what ‘off the record’ really means, and avoid that ‘gotcha’ moment the reporter is looking for,” said Banister.


Top 5 Tips on Handling the Media

1. Know the Beast – Knowledge of how the media works is critical.
2. Feed the Beast – If you don’t respond to a crisis, it looks like you’re hiding something. Give them something to report.
3. Know the Technology – Have an awareness of such issues as lighting, hand gestures and facial expressions when you are on the air. The recorder is always on; every cell phone is a camera.
4. Control the Interview – Choose when, where and how long to meet with the reporter. They will try to control the questions and direction – don’t let them.
5. Confirm it’s a Legitimate News Outlet – Legitimate journalists are objective, experienced, professional, have 3-4 sources, and have libel/slander liability.

Keynote speaker Ed Norris concluded the event by sharing a shocking story of professional and personal accomplishments shattered by adversity that changed the course of his life. Norris spoke from the heart on how the court of public opinion, unsavory legal maneuvers and unscrupulous reporters in Maryland landed him in prison and cost him his reputation and career. Norris brought to life Weinhold’s and Banister’s teachings while sharing how a new career, family life and inner strength have led to his current peace of mind. I95