As a full-time media and crisis trainer, I read about a dozen new books on public relations each year. Few produce the number of true “a ha” moments that Jane Jordan-Meier’s The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management did.
Jane’s straight forward prose, expert sourcing, relevant data and instructive case studies make this detailed book an easy read. Her international perspective (she cites cases in Australia, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States) makes clear just how universal these crisis communications truths are.
Here are a few of the “a ha” moments her book produced for me:
The “St” Factor: I’ve long taught my trainees that reporters love to use superlatives. If a corporate crisis is the “largest,” “first,” “worst,” or “longest,” reporters will inevitably report the story within that framework. But Jane points out that companies in crisis can develop their own, more positive superlatives. For example, if this is the “first industrial explosion in the 105-year history of the company,” the firm would be well advised to use that as their superlative. Not doing so can lead the media to create a more damaging one, such as, “the worst corporate disaster in the history of Washington County.”
Issue Linking: The media use “issue linking.” Sure, I’ve known this for years, but I’ve never articulated it that well. Companies can help plan for crises by anticipating the likely related issues the media will use in their reporting. For example, an oil company that has a spill today will be compared to BP or Exxon. Since they can anticipate that kind of “issue linking,” they can work in advance to develop effective responses.
Head and Heart: Great spokespersons, Jane argues, speak using their heart and their head. They need to communicate both “I care and I am accountable.” Jane’s short phrase is uncomplicated and memorable, and makes this concept one spokespersons can easily remember during a crisis.
Overall Impression: “When coaching clients,” Jane writes, “I advocate that they…start with the question of what is the overall impression that you want to make given the situation. That is your starting point, not what you are going to say.” She’s exactly right. Too many trainers jump right into messaging language without considering the overall impression they want to forge with the public.
The Fifth Estate: The public, with social media tools at our disposal, have become “The Fifth Estate” (the first four estates are, traditionally, the clergy, the nobility, commoners, and the press). Companies can no longer afford to avoid social media – those that do will be buried by the fifth estate when crisis strikes.
These are just five small parts of the book – the book is packed with hidden gems that even the most seasoned public relations professionals can learn from.
Although this book isn’t inexpensive, it’s well worth the investment. I highly recommend it.
Author, Mr. Media Training Blog
“Whether ones work is specific to crisis communication or not, in the highly interactive and networked world we live in, all communication professionals need to understand how to effectively work with the media during and after crises. This book is an essential resource for doing so. Written by a highly experienced media relations consultant and savvy social media expert, this book provides practical, accessible advice and easy-to-use and apply tools and guides — all brought to life through real-world case studies.”
Past President, San Francisco Chapter, International Association of Business Communicators
“Jane Jordan-Meier’s insights into crisis communication are based on her experiences over many years at the coalface, guiding CEOs and organizations through the toughest of times. Her book is a must-read for any communication professional seeking an understanding of the power of the social media and how the media report a crisis.”
Managing Director, Sefiani Communications Group, Australia