Book Review - Stop The Presses (2nd Edition) by Richard S. Levick and Larry Smith
In today's media-rich world, where everyone's looking for the next "scoop", you can NOT afford to be without this book... STOP THE PRESSES: The Crisis and Litigation PR Desk Reference (2nd Edition) by Richard S. Levick, Esq. and Larry Smith. This is the go-to book when your organization is under siege from reporters, bloggers, and scandal-hungry media outlets. Actually, it's the go-to book *before* you get in that situation...
Bullet-Proofing Your Brand; Things Change, Things Stay the Same; The Life Cycle of a Brand; What's At Stake? Here's the Quick Answer... Maybe Everything; The Quintessential Crisis Team - Two Approaches; The Crisis Plan - From Action Points to Talking Points - and Back to Action; Handling the Print Interview; How to Survive the Broadcast Media Pit Bulls; Secret Weapons, Open War - Optimized Internet Strategies as a Litigation Tool; A Whole New Ballgame - How Blogs Have Taken Crisis Communications to the Next and Unprecedented Level; Food, Drugs, and Money - Communications in an Age of Heightened Regulatory Prosecutorial Activity; The Family Jewels - Media Strategies in Product Liability Crises; Special Agendas... Gearing Press Relations to Specific Crisis Areas; Another Crucial Complication... How Cultural Differences Affect Media Management Across Borders; Law Firms in Trouble - Unique Media Strategies for a Unique Market; The Immense Significance of Offense in Crisis Communication Today; Conclusion... Sort Of; Appendix A - Litigation Planning Guide; Appendix B - A Crisis Management Primer for In-House Counsel; Appendix C - Crisis Scenarios
Despite the rather formal sounding title, STOP THE PRESSES is concise, compact, and incredibly readable. Levick and Smith do an excellent job in examining how organizations can be targeted by media following up bad news, product recalls, scandal, or any other nasty thing that will make headlines. It used to be that you could get away with a "no comment" and control the two or three media outlets that mattered. Now "no comment" is seen as stonewalling, and media is far more than the newspaper and the 5 pm news. Blogs, websites, and 24 hour news stations can take a story, break it in hours (if not minutes), and put you in a position where you better have a plan in place before the public opinion is permanently set against you.
The book starts out with making sure you get your message and image out in the media before a crisis hits. You want to be seen as a reputable, responsible organization with a consistent story. That gives you good will and a chance if and when things take a turn for the worse. A prime example would be Southwest Airlines recently being exposed as flying planes that were past their inspection dates. While they will take a hit for that, their public image prior to the report gives them a bit of room to respond. The authors then transition into how to build a team that will respond to any crisis, knows what to do when the news breaks, and has a firm grasp of the message that should be used in any media forum.
As I'm a blogger, I was most interested in how they viewed blogs in this situation. As with the rest of the book, I felt they were dead-on. Blogs can't be ignored, companies should have their blogging voice established well before a crisis hits, and at the very least you need to be monitoring the blogosphere to see what's being said about your organization. Often a news story that would be overlooked has been fanned by bloggers into a full-blown lead feature. As examples, look at Dan Rather's "authentic" memos as well as Senator Trent Lott's resignation over insensitive remarks over race. Ignoring bloggers is something to do at your own risk and peril.
There is even more information in these pages that corporate communication staff should know and fully understand. If I were running the PR department of *any* company or organization, I would require this book to be on everyone's desk in my department, and we'd use it as a planning tool for that day when the media turns on you. And it *will* happen...