By Jim Pfeiffer
In May 2012, moments after releasing information about the JP Morgan Chase $2 billion loss, CEO, Jamie Dimon hit the airwaves with an apology repeated over and over again to any broadcaster who would give him airtime. While the company’s stock fell 10% after the announcement, the backlash has been tempered by Dimon’s decision to remain upfront and available. His public apology has taken some of the steam out of the fury that otherwise would have been directed at him and the bank. The loss was clearly a corporate disaster, but his response to the crisis was modern, bold and, as it must be today, video-based.
According to Dr. Steven Goldman, a nuclear engineer turned crisis manager, who teaches crisis management and disaster recovery at MIT, “Crisis response is now two-way communication. Today, anyone with a website, a blog, or a YouTube account can respond instantly to an incident. I advise clients that they have to capture a YouTube site, a Twitter site and a Facebook site under their names prior to a crisis. And when they provide information during a crisis, it is video and audio and text. All of them. Of the three, video is the most important.”
Susie Arons, Executive Vice President at Rubenstein Communications, a strategic communications and media relations firm in New York, sees silence as a high-risk strategy for her corporate and entertainment clients. “You want to let people know that you are doing something; that you are handling it,” said Arons. “When you stay quiet and don’t let people know that there is a process happening, you can get yourself into trouble because people think that you’re not doing anything, or you’re trying to cover up and you’re not being up front. People are skeptical.”
While social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are effective ways to keep your brand in front of the public or a specific market, when an incident occurs and the public turns the heat up, negative comments and re-tweets can overwhelm the employees responsible for managing that traffic. Like it or not, when the stakes are high, and the tweets are turning negative, video is the fastest way to reach your audience, and the CEO must be up-front.
Dr. Goldman recommends that video distribution and broadcasting be part of the strategy. “Video puts a face on the incident. That’s what people want to see. ‘Who’s in charge?’ ‘What are they doing?’ The public at large wants the corporate leader, not a corporate PR person, delivering the message,” said Goldman.
Following this trend, a few CEOs have turned on-site conference rooms and offices into “always ready” broadcast centers to give themselves more preparation time while meeting the public’s demand for critical information immediately. One product allows executives to appear live on TV via a small, remotely-controlled HD broadcasting station installed on the organization’s premises. This ReadyCam® on-site studio includes lights, camera, and audio and enables executives to address the public in a moment’s notice.
Richard Silton, President and CEO of Videolink, the company that developed the ReadyCam, said that the development of this product was really driven by corporate executives who wanted to save time and get the word out to a variety of media outlets without the chaos of a traditional press conference.
“You can’t possibly convey the amount of transparency you need in crisis management without using video, especially the live video interview,” says Silton. And the quality of the video is just as important as what is said. “Whether you have good news, bad news or you are just trying to have a conversation, the physical appearance of your message affects the way it is received,” Silton adds.
Effective crisis management is not about declaring there isn’t one. It is about actively managing the crisis so the corporation comes through it without any additional self-inflicted damage.
Jim Pfeiffer is a corporate video producer/writer and a broadcast and cable news videographer. He has covered major events starting with the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant demonstrations in 1977 (for PBS), and continuing with the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111 (for NBC News), many other events up to and through 2012, including many NH Primary cycles (NBC News and Fox news Channel).