Public Relations and Crisis Communication

  • Most of the crises are unpredictable and they always pose a severe threat to the hard earned goodwill of the organization. In such a testing time good planning and sound judgment plays a critical role towards resolution.
  • During the time of crisis, dealing with public need special skill and care, therefore, public relation efforts are crucial in crisis communication.
  • In a crisis situation, PR needs to share the available information with the media with a promise that more information will be supplied as and when it will be available.
  • If a communication vacuum will be created at official source, it will certainly be filled by grapevine or some irresponsible information, harming the long term credibility.

Classification of Crisis

  1. Exploding Crisis

Actual disasters such as fires, accidents, earthquakes, floods etc.

  1. Anticipated Crisis

Crisis due to premeditated decisions like closure of a plant, discontinuance of a service etc.

  1. Immediate Crisis

Controversial incidents involving individual, organization or government etc.

  1. Sustained Crisis

When an organization, a product or services is under long term attack from some stakeholders like special interest   groups, media, judiciary, civil society etc.

Case Study: Mumbai Siege

  • Terrorist attacked Mumbai on 26 November 2008 and created mayhem for 64 hours. About 200 people were dead and almost double were injured.
  • The then CM Late Vilas Rao Deshmukh and state Home Minister R R Patil visited the hotel Taj after the siege was cleared, an exercise in PR, so would anyone infer. However the part of their entourage was Director Ram Gopal Verma and his actor son Ritesh Deshmukh as well. The CM was profoundly criticized for this act.
  • Media dubbed it as insensitive, inconsiderate, mindless and cruel…
  • BEST buses were send to bring back security personnel from Taj, which was also criticized severely.
  • The electronic media was also on the receiving end on internet and social media platforms as they have shown the strategic details of the security personnel, which could have helped the terrorist, watching television inside the areas of their capture.

Case Study: Gulf War 

  • On october 10, 1990, a 15 year old Kuwaiti girl, Nayriah-al-Sabah testified before the US Congress about the atrocities, Iraqi soldiers were committing against Kuwaiti citizens. She specifically mentions that Iraqi soldiers were taking Kuwaitis infants from hospital incubators. Her testimony caught the imagination of the media as well government alike. Many senators voted for war and cited the story.
  • Later it came to notice that a PR consultancy “Hill and Knowlton” was paid $10.5 million by a group called “Citizens for a free Kuwait” controlled by wealthy Kuwaitis, to manage perception of western media and people.
  • The Kuwaiti girl, Nayriah-al-Sabah was found to be the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the USA.
  • The PR agency later admitted to trained the girl about the testimony. The PR strategy however, believed by many, intends the US into the Gulf War.

Case Study: Tata Nano

  • Tata Nano was more of a promise than a car. It was world’s smallest and most economical car, promised at INR 1,00,000.
  • The project was announced on 18 May, 2006, on the day Buddhadeb Bhattacharya was sworn in as the Chief Minister of West Bengal in Singur.
  • The 997 acres multi-crop land was allegedly acquired through forcible acquisition came into question.
  • In July 2006, TMC leader Mamta Banerjee, took the charge of the protest and turned it into a major political issue. On 25 August 2006, FICCI stood behind Tata Group. Mamta Banerjee roped in Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy into agitation in October 2006 and went on for a 25 day long fast.
  • In 2007, Calcutta High Court made it clear that the Singur land acquisition was legal. Tata announced the roll out of Nano by October 2008. However due to consistent protest at site and safety concern Tata, at last moved out of Singur in October 2008 and settled for Sanand in Gujarat.
  • After withdrawal, three weeks later, Ratan Tata issued an open letter to the citizens of West Bengal, without hiding his displeasure and accusing Mamta Banerjee for the mess.
  • The letter highlighted all the facts including the Calcutta High Court ruling and asked the people of West Bengal to take stand on such incidences which could jeopardize the industrial growth of the state.
  • In Singur, Tata lost on time, manpower and resources ad incurred a huge financial loss which some believed was about 500 Crores and 250 Crores of claim made by the vendors.
  • By this PR tactic, Tata choose to give back and get the issue off his chest!
  • The national media, by and large, was sympathetic to the Tata Group.
  • The Supreme Court on 31st August 2016, quashed the CPI (M)-led West Bengal government’s acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for industry captain Tata Motors’ Nano “small car” plant in Singur. This judgement proves to be a political victory for the Mamata Banerjee.

Case Study: DMRC

  • The impact of running the organization efficiently and partnering with media in the course of development
  • Organization:- Delhi Metro is one of the few government organization that has been able to project itself positively among various stakeholders by using communication as a strategic tool in achieving great brand equity.
  • Event of Crisis:- On 19th October 2008, part of an under-construction flyover of Delhi Metro collapsed near Nirman Vihar in East Delhi that killed two people and injured ten more.
  • PR Efforts of Crisis Communication:- The PR department of DMRC went on an overdrive to interact with various stakeholders, including media about what had happened, what was the action plan etc. Due to this DMRC did not get any negative report in media. Media reporting was factual without any exaggerations or raising doubt on the intent of DMRC.

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