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A Public Relation Perspective on Crisis Categories

Discover a public relation perspective on crisis categories.

A third list of crisis types can be drawn from the Public Relations world. Author and researcher Gary McCusker, in his book Public Relations Disasters, shares this typology for categorizing different varieties of crisis. You will find this list to be noticeably different from the first two that you reviewed. One lesson to take away regarding categorical lists of crisis types is that perspective should be a very important consideration. Each of these lists is generated by viewing different varieties of crisis from a very specific perspective. The first two lists were generated from the perspective of an organization’s senior leadership team. In this case, the perspective is that of a Public Relations expert. Here is list number three:

1) Acts of God. When the crisis is a result of a natural disaster.

2) Business Operations. Where corporate activity adversely impacts one or more stakeholder groups.

3) Corporate Moves. This is the author’s way of describing the events associated with a major corporate restructuring and change initiative.

4) Legalities. When contentious issues make their way to the courtroom and the proceedings allow the media to follow the story.

5) Rumors. When a story takes on a life of its own, particularly when the facts aren’t allowed to get in the way of a good story.

6) Staff. When employees behave badly and the company’s brand is placed at risk.

7) Scandal. When the extremely poor behavior of one or more members of an organization draws media attention.

As you think through this particular list, did you identify any types of crises that you would like to add to your list? Your first thought may be: “wow, this list really is quite a bit different than the first two.” Your second thought might be: “that said, I could see any of these happening at my company”. A useful question as you consider adding one or more of these items to your list is this: “Could some of all of these simply represent examples of a Public Relations crisis, as defined on Professor Meyers’ list, or a Reputational crisis, as defined on PwC’s list?” If and when you decide to create a categorical list of your own, you will want to try and keep your perspective consistent across all of the items on your list. So, you may choose to have a list that defines some very specific scenarios in a particular area, as this list does from a PR perspective, or you may want a much broader set of alternatives, such as in the first two lists. Choose the approach that makes it easiest for you and your team to consider how you would respond to the crisis types you identify.

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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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