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Authenticity in the Face of Crisis

Authenticity in the Face of Crisis

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Published by terrygault
In the event of a crisis or a disaster, and if you happen to be the manager of a company facing that crisis or disaster, it’s best to be mentally prepared. Crises can happen any time. Just like they can in our personal lives. And like our own individual preparedness for disaster, a good manager should be prepared to handle an internal or external crisis effectively. To help counter the bad taste a mistake or disaster may leave in the mouths of clients, the best approach for dealing with the situation is to explain things calmly and with authenticity.
In the event of a crisis or a disaster, and if you happen to be the manager of a company facing that crisis or disaster, it’s best to be mentally prepared. Crises can happen any time. Just like they can in our personal lives. And like our own individual preparedness for disaster, a good manager should be prepared to handle an internal or external crisis effectively. To help counter the bad taste a mistake or disaster may leave in the mouths of clients, the best approach for dealing with the situation is to explain things calmly and with authenticity.

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Published by: terrygault on Apr 06, 2008
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09/27/2012

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AUTHENTICITY IN THE FACE OF CRISIS
Management CommunicationIn the event of a crisis or a disaster, and if youhappen to be the manager of a company facing thatcrisis or disaster, it’s best to be mentally prepared.Crises can happen any time. Just like they can in ourpersonal lives. And like our own individualpreparedness for disaster, a good manager should beprepared to handle an internal or external crisiseffectively. To help counter the bad taste a mistake ordisaster may leave in the mouths of clients, the bestapproach for dealing with the situation is to explainthings calmly and with authenticity.When a mine owned by Murray Energy Corporationcollapsed, CEO Robert Murray rushed to a private jetto the scene as soon as he heard of the collapse,appearing at the disaster within hours. He tookcommand of the rescue operation. He provided themedia with constant updates. He responded to thecrisis with excellent textbook public relations. Thepresence of the concerned CEO at the scene hasbeen crucial ever since the Valdez , Alaska oil spillin1989 – one of history’s worst environmentaldisasters -- when Exxon’s CEO took far too long toappear on the scene, thereby intensifying publicanger at the company.
 
So Murray was ahead of the game and ready for thenext step when he appeared at the site of the minecollapse. But soon after, his crisis communicationbroke down. He denounced the media and blamedunion organizers for suggesting that the dangerouspractice of "retreat mining" had led to the collapse.He erroneously blamed an earthquake (tremorsactually caused by the mine collapse) and blastedenvironmentalists for their crusade against globalwarming, calling it an affront to the coal industry andto the American economy. Suddenly, although he wasphysically there, he didn’t appear "there" for thetrapped miners or their families. Then, after threerescuers were killed in a cave-in, he seeminglydisappeared from the scene altogether.Despite all these negatives, Murray ’s actions werenoted in a positive vein by one writer who describedhis candor and refreshing authenticity. In
Shades of Gray 
, a public relations blog by David Murray (norelation), he writes that "Despite [ Murray ’s]occasional moments of near-insanity, I suspect he’sbetter liked by the general public than he would be if he’d gone by the crisis communication book."Because of his authentic approach. The Murray example shows that, in times of crisis,spokespeople (especially CEOs) should trust in theredeeming power of honesty and authenticity in the
 
actions they take. The public will immediatelyempathize with the leader who bravely steps up andtakes charge at the scene of a disaster. Those waitingfor action and a solution will feel cared for andrelieved. Forgiveness for the leader’s other faults willcome naturally and readily toward that person aslong as they feel the spokesperson is being truthful.Mistakes can be made, but can also be recoveredfrom, especially if they’re honest ones. But oncecredibility comes into question, once authority iscompromised, there’s a steep climb uphill beforewe’re able to regain people’s trust. Stumble and fallbut be real. Tell the truth, at least the way you see it.Even if you’re wrong, at least it’s your opinion, andpeople will be able to feel your authenticity andunderstand your good intentions. Truly confidentpeople (who know themselves and are willing to beseen as vulnerable and imperfect) project a rock-solid belief in themselves. "Yes, I made a mistake inthis case but I still believe in myself." So then otherswill believe in you, too. You can’t force authenticity, especially in thecorporate world, according to Don Tapscott, author of 
The Naked Corporation
, a book about corporatetransparency. Given the public’s distrust of corporations today, it’s more important than ever forCEOs in particular to operate authentically whenfacing a crisis. It’s pretty easy to see through aflimflam spokesperson – one with the gift of gab but

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