How to respond effectively to crises

Whether it involves an environmental issue or an activist investor, a crisis can hit out of nowhere. A quick response is often the key to turning it around.

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Some time back, a ship spilled a small quantity of oil in Philadelphia harbor.

Nobody knew whether the company that owned the ship was at fault, says Thomas J. Rozycki Jr., who represented the organization. When he spoke to the board of directors, however, he advised them to offer to pay for the cleanup.

“Basically, it gave the media and the protesters nowhere to go,” says Rozycki, who is managing director of the public relations firm Prosek Partners.

When a crisis hits, the public expects an immediate response, even if it’s just to acknowledge that you’re aware of it, he says. Whether it’s a data breach or an activist investor battling your management in the press, be prepared for an immediate response, experts say.

The shipping company announced it would fund whatever cleanup was necessary and figure out who’s responsible down the road, Rozycki recalls. It later turned out that an earlier dredging of the canal had left behind an anchor that pierced the boat. The company wasn’t at fault, and it was reimbursed.

Nevertheless, the response successfully demonstrated that the company was a responsible corporate citizen.

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