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How to Create a Crisis

GoLocal, an online publication in Providence, Rhode Island, recently wrote an editorial critical of recent decisions by  Rhode Island education officials.  The editorial creatively lists everything those officials have been doing to create a crisis juxtaposed with tips for managing a crisis the right way, written by Northeastern University’s Graduate School.

We urge you to read the original editorial from GoLocal, with the right way-wrong way juxtapositions.  It’s brilliant.  But if time is short, here is

GoLocal’s Guide to How to Create a Crisis

  1. Don’t respond to media questions. Withhold information. Claim schools are “crumbling” and then refuse to provide any proof. Then, refuse to answer any question if and how the “crumbling” is an immediate danger to students or faculty.
  2. Piss off every possible partner and stakeholder. Don’t inform the teachers, the school board, or the parents. And then, insult all of them.  When teachers ask basic questions, refuse to answer them. You cannot inflame the crisis without diminishing stakeholders.
  3. Never apologize. Blame people for leaking the news. Demonstrate endless frustration. Repeatedly refuse to answer press questions.
  4. Make sure you insult everyone. Be like the communications director for the Providence Schools who issued a statement, “Maribeth Calabro and Jeremy Sencer have once again shown their true colors by running to social media to advance their own agenda of sewing turmoil, rather than addressing the longstanding critical issue of school facilities with District leaders like true thought partners.”
  5. This is your really big chance to elevate the crisis and lose all the credibility. Remember, it took you forever to appoint the first Superintendent of Providence schools. The public was not included. Then, you booted him. You had slews of folks turn down the job. Don’t share information. Always remember you are in control. The parents are going to leave the schools – all of the parents who could have already done it.
  6. No planning. Never! We are going to close schools. We are going to do it and make sure we have NO COMMUNICATIONS plan or STRATEGY. Always remember, we are in control. Drop the “news” as families are scrambling for the holidays.
  7. Do you think employees are our best ambassadors? That is a joke. We can just tell employees what to do. What are they going to do, quit?  Moreover, we don’t need a consistent message because we don’t have a message.  Lastly, we have a 50-year track record of failing students. Expectations are so low no one really believes the schools can be fixed anyways.

For the original piece, click here.

Interested in creating a crisis communications plan for your company or organization?  Contact Hennes Communications at +1-216-321-7774 or

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