Category Archives: Crisis Communications

Press Conferences in a Crisis: Belichick and Deflate-Gate

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

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New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick held two press conferences to address the “deflate-gate” controversy that has taken over sports headlines since the Patriot’s dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots, and Belichick as its head coach, are accused of underinflating game-day footballs against league rules.

After nearly a week of increasing hype and Patriot’s silence, Bill Belichick took the podium on Thursday morning in an attempt to quell the deflate-gate firestorm. His performance was lacking both in content and delivery and, thus, only fanned the sports talk radio flames that had been raging since the crisis broke. Then, in a surprising move, Belichick returned to face the cameras again on Saturday. He performed better in his second press conference and public reaction was more positive. Let’s take a look at some “lessons learned” from both of Belichick’s press conferences during the Patriot’s deflate-gate crisis. 

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Presentation Training

Reputation Management: Rebuilding Lance Armstrong

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

As bad as things look for Lance Armstrong amidst the doping scandal that has cost him seven Tour De France titles and millions in endorsement deals, he has an opportunity that few in need of reputation management ever have. This opportunity for reputation redemption comes not from his status as the most successful athlete his sport has ever seen, but as the founder of LiveStrong, an organization that provides support for people fighting cancer around the world. It is much easier to forgive athletes like Lance for “on-the-field” discretions when they also are known for altruistic works off the field. 

Armstrong, however, like anyone in the middle of a crisis, needs to be realistic about what type of a reputation rescue is even possible. For example, can the career be saved? Could there be endorsement deals in the future? Can the hearts and minds of the general public be won over again? In Armstrong’s case, the cycling career is over, and so too are the endorsements. But his ability to regain respect as a leader in the cancer community and to take back the LiveStrong chairmanship he recently resigned is entirely possible. Continue reading

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Reputation Management

Preparing for a Social Media Crisis

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

I recently participated as the designated “social media expert” as part of a crisis communications case study session at the 2012 NIRI Southwest regional conference.  This year’s conference was held in New Orleans and the session centered on a fictitious publicly held bead manufacturing company (apropos for the conference host city) that found itself suddenly facing a major environmental crisis. During the true-to-life exercise, attendees took on the roles of the company’s corporate communications officers and were tasked with implementing all aspects of the crisis response plan.

In their new roles, the attendees had to make a number of decisions relating to the immediate actions of the fictitious company, “Beignet Beads & Baubles.”  For example, should the company proceed with a press conference with the governor announcing a state grant that afternoon?  Should management go forward with a scheduled presentation at a major investor conference in New York the next day?  Should a planned announcement of a major plant expansion be delayed? As typically happens with a real crisis, the Beignet Beads & Baubles “crisis team-for-a-day” was given an increasing amount of information to complicate their decision-making process.  Continue reading

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Social Media, Socialize IR

Achieving Nirvana for Your M&A Deal – Lessons Learned in Seattle

By Jim Buckley

At the recently concluded NIRI National conference in Seattle, I was invited to moderate a panel entitled Communicating the Deal: How IR Can Drive Success. The session featured a seasoned cast of practitioners who have successfully navigated an assortment of M&A transactions ranging from strategic purchases and spinoffs to hostile takeovers and going private.   Participants were treated to valuable insights, anecdotes and lessons learned from Andrew Kramer of Interactive Data Corporation, Brian McPeak of Owens Corning, John Chevalier of Procter & Gamble and Kristy Nicholas of Expedia.

Deals have begun to pick up momentum again in recent years, with the Institute of Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (a fabulous site if you need M&A data) estimating that there were approximately 15,000 deals in North America during 2011 amounting to $1.6 trillion. This is the equivalent of someone buying Apple, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Wal-Mart and General Electric – combined.  Worldwide, that number rises to $5.1 trillion.  Continue reading

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Mergers & Acquisitions, Speaking Engagements

Five Crisis Communication Plan Essentials

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

*Originally appeared on OpenView Labs, the strategic and operational consulting arm of OpenView Venture Partners, a global Venture Capital fund that invests in expansion stage technology companies.

“In preparing for battle, I have always
found that plans are useless, but
planning is indispensable.”

                                                        – Dwight David Eisenhower

President Eisenhower could well have uttered the same quote about Crisis Communications.  Developing a crisis communications plan is more about planning to mobilize for a potential crisis, than it is about writing step-by-step actions for specific pre-ordained scenarios.  And this is what causes so many management teams to be confused about exactly what the components of a good crisis communication plan actually are.  Here are five “Crisis Plan Essentials” to consider in order to get your team ready to communicate in a crisis.

1)      Identify the Crisis Team

It’s important that the right people from the appropriate functional areas of the organization are ready to respond at a moment’s notice to a crisis and understand their responsibilities as members of the team.  Along with the CEO and CFO, the team should include key people from public relations, corporate communications, investor relations, human resources, public affairs, sales and marketing. Make sure that at least two members of the crisis team have been media trained.  A major crisis is no time to get your feet wet in media relations. Continue reading

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Investor Relations

A Curious Tale from the Annals of Shareholder Activism

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner

Nothing has more power to change a boardroom’s dynamics than the election of dissident directors – especially when they arrive as a twosome. I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion on shareholder activism at the National Association of Corporate Directors New England Chapter breakfast event earlier this month, where seasoned board members talked about the lessons they’ve learned in battling high-profile proxy contests over the years.

One of the stories, told by a former board chairman, involved the legendary corporate raider Carl Icahn. A manufacturing glitch had resulted in a steep drop in his company’s share price. After repeated attempts, Icahn was finally successful in having two of his nominees elected to the board. This occurred not long after the principal of another activist institution had been elected as a director, and not long before the company received an unsolicited tender offer at a substantial premium to the then-current share price.

The former chairman painstakingly recreated the scenarios that unfolded over the next few months as the board considered the takeover offer. At first, he focused on the gulf in interests and motivations between the newly elected “directors” and long-time members of the board. Unlike the established directors, who had long been personally committed to the company’s vision, mission and business strategy, the dissidents’ only interest was in immediately monetizing the company’s value for shareholders, he said. Predictably, these conflicting goals led to tremendous stress and friction on the board. Continue reading

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The Firing of Terry Francona: Lessons in Crisis Communications

By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner

The firing of Red Sox manager Terry Francona offers a few valuable lessons in crisis communications, especially those relating to the unexpected departure of an executive.  For those of you outside of Red Sox Nation, let me offer a little background: the only living manager of Boston’s professional baseball team to win a world series (twice!) is now unemployed after missing the playoffs following a disastrous September collapse.  To be technical, Francona wasn’t fired; the team declined to pick up the option on his 2012 contract.  While the debate over letting Francona go is an ideal subject for a sports-focused blog, the way the decision was communicated offers two valuable lessons to anyone in crisis communications. 

1)      Take a Deep Breath:  When a decision is made suddenly to release a senior executive, care should be taken to think through the communications timeline.  The Red Sox put Francona in front of the microphones the day after the final game of the season for no reason other than to discuss the final calamitous loss.  If ownership had even an inkling that the team would be sending Francona on his way, why put him in front of reporters to awkwardly answer questions about his future?  To make matters worse, the very next day Francona held a press conference to announce his departure, which was then followed by another media gathering by the Sox brass to discuss the action.  Why two additional separate press conferences?  The Sox would have been better served to have one well rehearsed press conference (including Francona and the Sox higher-ups) to address the disastrous end of the season and announce that the time was right for a managerial change.  In any crisis situation, take a deep breath, think a few steps ahead and plan all messaging and timing of external communications accordingly. Continue reading

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Media Relations