Posts Taged crisis-communciations

Not Even Crisis PR Can Save a Lion Killer

Crisis PR

Walter Palmer, who has officially become the world’s most hated dentist, catapulted to infamy this week after news of his illegal hunting trip in Zimbabwe, where he shot and killed a lion named Cecil, hit social media.

While his dental practice quickly crumbled around him — he shut down his office this week, and chances are it won’t be reopening soon — Palmer made a few statements to media before enlisting the help of a crisis PR firm, J Austin & Associates.

Now the PR firm is facing its own crisis PR challenge.

You see, not all PR business is good business. This small firm, which was founded by Jon Austin in 2006, has now associated itself with one of the most notorious crisis PR cases of 2015. It’s name is now synonymous with lion killer. And unfortunately, next time a company or individual is in the market for its own crisis PR firm, no matter how egregious its own “crisis” is, they’d be wise to avoid associating with an already tainted firm.

Since making its first statement on behalf of Palmer, J Austin & Associates has issued its own statement, claiming it no longer works for Palmer, even going so far as to claim the first statement was only issued “at the request of another PR firm.”

Another, smarter PR firm.

Ultimately, there was no strong strategy behind Palmer hiring a crisis PR firm, and J Austin should have advised him as such. His best plan of attack was to hire a lawyer, cooperate with law enforcement and associated NGOs, and keep his mouth shut. There will never be a place where his actions can be justified. There is no amount of money he can donate to make this right. His dental practice is shot, deader than dear old Cecil, and J Austin may not be far behind.

American dentist Walter Palmer was vilified online after it emerged he was the hunter behind the death of Cecil the Lion. Source: CNN

American dentist Walter Palmer was vilified online after it emerged he was the hunter behind the death of Cecil the Lion. Source: CN


Prepare for the Unexpected with a Crisis Communications Plan


Basic steps for your crisis communications plan

The recent water contamination in Toledo, Ohio underscores the need for all types of organizations to have a plan for how they will handle communications in a crisis. Most of us won’t be facing a life-or-death situation, as the city of Toledo did, but nevertheless a bit of advance planning can help your organization weather any crisis – avoiding damage to your brand or hampering your ability to do work —  with the help of a crisis communications plan.

Anticipate the crisis.

Involve your management team in brainstorming. What type of situation is your organization most vulnerable to? What steps can you put into place to avert such a crisis? What type of response would be most appropriate were a crisis to strike?

Make it official.

Develop a written company policy that outlines the instances in which employees are allowed to speak to the media and how to handle media inquiries.

Designate a spokesperson, or a crisis team, in advance.

When the crisis hits, whether it is prompted by a product recall, an undetected internal problem or an external tragedy, you need to know who is the first point of communication for all media, client and customer inquiries. Make sure this person has access to company collateral that addresses your mission, values and key messaging.  A number of organizations offer crisis communications training to prepare company spokespersons to play this role.

Identify key stakeholders.

Given the type of organization, who are your key stakeholders? Do you have a board you will need to begin outreach to immediately, or an active group of investors or volunteers?

Prepare to be proactive.

Once the crisis hits, define the problem and set out some measurable objectives. As information becomes available, share it with your stakeholders – or at least let them know you are trying to find out more. Some of the biggest crisis communications missteps stemmed from the company not sharing information in a timely manner.

Are you prepared for a communications crisis?

Sochi Olympics End with Humor


As we detailed on the blog previously, the Sochi Olympic Games seemed to have been fraught with logistical problems from the start, including questionable accommodations and discolored tap water, earning the Twitter hashtags, #sochiproblems or #sochifails. These mishaps, along with other controversies, did not generate the most positive PR for this year’s Olympic organizers.

However, if you watched the Closing Ceremony last night, you saw that it included a joke that allowed the event to poke fun at one of its mistakes with a little self-depreciating humor.

In the Opening Ceremony two weeks ago there was a malfunction in which one of the five rings did did not open in the large light display of the Olympic Games symbol – an example of #sochifails in massive glowing lights. The mistake seemed to add to the sense that not all was up to par at this year’s Olympics.


Last night’s Closing Ceremony included an ironic twist in which during the opening dance routine, several hundred dancers formed the Olympic rings, with the top right ring remaining unopened for a moment in humorous reference to the previous malfunction. The crowd cheered as the ring of dancers actually did open and tweets and gifs of the display went viral with many commenting “Good One, Russia”.


By M. Smelter (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons