“I would like my life back.” These are the words of BP Chief Executive Officer, Tony Hayward, which we ultimately remember. Sometimes it only takes a few words to create a public relations nightmare. Moreover, no words can also lead to a PR disaster. For example, failure to quickly address a concern or issue that may affect your client, end-user, or the public may have negative consequences.

On the other hand, being proactive, like Johnson and Johnson was in 1982 when they quickly responded to the reported deaths associated with their Tylenol product, can be a PR success. The ability to manage public relations is paramount to your business. You must have a plan before a crisis occurs. I often look at public relations management through a “window of opportunity” (WOO) theory, which states that there is a short period of time during which an opportunity must be acted on or missed. The WOO closes quickly and can never reopen.

For example, if a crisis or the potential for a crisis develops in your company, the quicker the response, the least amount of PR damage will occur. However, the response must be accurate, honest, and open to further details. So, to effectively avoid a PR disaster, you must:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Have a Written Plan
  3. Use the Window of Opportunity Theory
  4. Develop Relationships with Media/Community (before crisis)
  5. Use Technology (to get the word out – email, website, Twitter, etc.)

Author: Mark E. Lomax is a retired Major in the PA. State Police and the former Director for the Bureau of Training and Education at the PA. State Police Academy, Hershey PA. He is also a former manager for the International Association of Chiefs of Police – Center for police leadership and training. Mr. Lomax is a graduate of the FBI National Academy; he has an undergraduate degree in psychology from LaSalle University, a Masters in Science and Higher Education from Drexel University and a MBA degree from Eastern University, Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies. Mr. Lomax is a managing member of (SLS) Strategic Leadership Systems LLC. You can find more of his work at their website www.strategicleadershipsystems.com