On December 2nd the Metro Philadelphia Chapter of the LMA had a crisis. Well, it was more of a mock crisis, but we all took it very seriously. Crisis experts Joshua Peck, senior media relations manager at Duane Morrisand Jeff Jubelirer, principal of Jubelirer Strategies, lead 40 LMA members through the interactive crisis drill.
All attendees were asked to arrive prepared, by reading a lengthy articleon a fictitious crisis situation. The particular situation had to do with a lawyer playing a dual role in a dog pound deal. Attendees were assigned to one of five tables, each of which represented a different player in the scenario. Each table was given 30 minutes to decide 1) what actions should be taken and 2) what the best possible outcome might be.
Below, please find a summary from each table’s discussion.
Represented: Richard Alonso, the attorney in question
Spokesperson: Consulting firm representing Mr. Alonso
Statement summary: Alonso followed procedure. Ultimately this was a project that all parties wanted to happen and Mr. Alonso was the most able to move it forward because of his connections. He was the right person for the job. We don’t feel there is a direct violation.
Represented: Shellee Buchanan, former Supreme Court Justice
Spokesperson: a spokesperson for Ms. Buchanan
Statement Summary: Buchanan is proud of the work that she did for the betterment of homeless dogs. She may have bypassed some management checks and she regrets that. She is now working on this project on her own time.
Represented: Mack & Cheeze, law firm that employed Mr. Alonso
Spokesperson: Chief Communications Officer
Statement Summary: We were initially contacted by the newspaper about the situation, and once made aware we worked to find out as much information as possible. We discovered that Alonso took some leeway with our procedures and as a result the role of our internal conflict committee is being enhanced. In addition, Mr. Alonso is currently on unpaid leave.
Represented:Jim Staples, Chief Dog Catcher
Spokesperson: Mr. Staples himself (conducted interview while petting a homeless dog)
Statement Summary: I lost site of the details while keeping needy dogs in mind. My focus was always on the dogs and I didn’t know about the corrupt situation until I read it in the newspaper.
Represented: Nancy Gimbol, Connolly Town developer, who had development rights at the site
Spokesperson: Mrs. Gimbol herself
Statement Summary: I apologize for the somewhat inartful way in which I talked with City Council members. However, my relationship with Mr. Alonso has always been above board.
Afterward attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and further discuss the situation and outcomes. Key takeaways included:
- When addressing a crisis situation, decide what you want the end point to be and then work back from there.
- If your strategy is to keep your client in the background, build a case for the media to talk to someone else involved in the situation because their story is more relevant and/or interesting. However, be aware that it may be a risky situation to have your client in the background.
- It’s perfectly okay to say “I don’t know” to the media, but always get back to the reporter within 24 hours with an answer.
- Update your crisis plan every few month. Organizations should be able to address a crisis using “muscle memory.”
Event recap written by Jessica Sharp, principal of Maven Communications