Crisis Communications Challenges

Welcome back!
Well it's been a few weeks in which I have taken a break from blogging [INSERT CHEERS HERE]. I have just returned from a whirlwind 10 days...five of them spent golfing in Naples FL. and five days in seminars from New York to Toronto. Five rounds in five days led to....a loss of five pounds! So even though my game basically flat-lined, at least my friends and I had a terrific time..playing golf in the morning, watching the Masters in the afternoon. What's a heaven for?

Speaking of golf, Tiger finally faced up to the media and answered [mostly] the questions which Tiger had heretofore ducked. His game was surprisingly strong but his surly media bites following his fourth round did little to show it was a more humble Tiger. Well he's still in rehab, right?

Phil Mickelson's victory was in poignant contrast to Tiger's angry response to his loss. It was not just about his magnificent victory, but more importantly in his genuine reaction to his victory - especially after the challenges he and his wife Amy, and his mother have faced in the past year in their battles with breast cancer. Tiger should pay attention to what humility and class is - in victory or in defeat. Here is a beautiful tribute to Phil and what the victory at the Master's really meant to golf and to what it means to be human:

Crisis Communications and the Catholic Church

The other major 'crisis' which has captured the world's media is the one involving the Catholic Church. It has been painful for me to watch Pope Benedict and the Church grapple with the issue. I spoke with the Washington Post on this issue last week:

Any allegation of sexual abuse of minors is profoundly important and must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. The Church - as with governments and other institutions - has in the past mishandled the issue, not turning cases over to civil authorities, believing that such abusers could be treated, and reassigning priests instead of removing them permanently from ministry. Society has learned a lot out of this entire issue and we have all come to realize that it must be dealt with in a very different way. Most of the issues facing the Church in America have to do with 'legacy' cases - often back in the sixties, seventies and eighties, as the independent audits show. This must continue until every single case has been fully and appropriately addressed.

Five Crisis Communications Concepts

To a certain extent, one could say that the Church is now dealing with an over-hyped series of  'allegations'; however one of the concepts of crisis management is that allegations - whether substantive or not can still throw an organization into crisis. A second concept is 'don't blame the media' - even if there have been some inaccuracies, or one doesn't like the tone of the stories, don't go there. Thirdly, with different spokespersons speaking out in defence of the Holy Father, it often distorts the message and escalates the problem. Fourthly, take action. Strongly and clearly. While words of apology are important, actions speak louder than words. Finally, the larger the crisis and the longer it goes on, the greater the 'remedy'. Half measures and reacting are not enough to get hold of the crisis.

What is Needed: A Universal Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

All of these have taken place in recent weeks, but the Church has not been able to make a major turning point in the crisis. What it will take, IMHO, is to bring together a special Synod of Bishops from around the world, and put in place what I would call a Universal Charter - modelled on the American Bishops 'Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People'. http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/charter.shtml

The communications aspect of this is critical, as a Charter provides the framework and the vehicle to communicate the actions necessary to turn the corner on this sorry saga in the Church's history. Such a Charter will serve to mark a major turning point as it did in the United States. It incorporates a fully transparent process backed by consistent actions and reporting across the Church in every country around the world. Through that Charter, will come transparency and accountability.

Half measures won't do the job. I remain hopeful that the Vatican will take hold of this crisis in a strong and forceful way. It's not too late!

The Helena and Rahim Saga Continues

Canadians have been exposed to story after story cataloguing the trials and tribulations of former Cabinet Minister Helena Guergis and her husband, the former MP, Rahim Jaffer. The couple have got themselves into such a mess that it's hard to separate fact from fiction. The Prime Minister's decision to remove her from Cabinet and the Caucus while calling in the Mounties to investigate certain unnamed transgressions - while more than likely his only choice- has whetted the public's appetite for what's behind the call for the investigation.

They have been blessed, however, by the CBC's revelation about the private eye who appears to be behind the most damaging allegations concerning the conflict of interest and associations of the Minister concerning her husband's business dealings. It turns out he is $13 million in debt and tried to peddle his story to the Liberals who had the sense to turn him down. This is an opportunity for Helena Guergis to find a window in this foggy 'allegation-driven' soap opera in order to get a coherent message across. Will she take advantage of it?  No sign yet, but Mr. Jaffer is about to appear today before a House Committee to tell his side of the story.

Here is just one example of the latest 'revelation' which serves to ratchet up the story without anything of great substance to back it up:

It sure ain't over till it's over!

Until next time.....

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