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Crisis Management Today

Hennes Communications
Crisis Communications  |  Crisis Management  |  Litigation Communications  |  Media Training
January 15, 2019

Our Perspective

Sorry Really Does Work

Sorry Really Does Work - Boston Hospital's Apology to Widower

By Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications  Here's the sad story of Laura Levis' tragic death after being locked out of a Boston hospital during an asthma attack, and the tortured path the hospital took in providing an apology to her husband, Peter.  The apology was two years late and was only offered after Peter, a former Boston Globe reporter, castigated the hospital in a long article (51 pages!) in the Boston Globe's Magazine.  
A Crisis Management Lesson Plan

A Crisis Management Lesson: Leaders Under Fire Who Choose to Say Nothing Give People Nothing to Believe In

By Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications
Government agencies, quasi-government agencies, nonprofits and for-profit companies – including those that hold themselves out as models of integrity and accountability – will feel the pain when the public gets obfuscation and spin instead of transparency.

Resolved for 2019: Overhaul your Crisis Communication Plan So It’s “Social First”

By Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications  If you have a crisis communications plan, update it in 2019 so it’s a “social first” plan. 

Cybersecurity is a Top Threat You Need to Plan For

By Thom Fladung, Hennes Communications  This new year, resolve to get ready for a data breach or other cybersecurity issue by thinking now about how you’ll communicate when it happens. 

In the News

How to Protect Shareholder Value During a Crisis: Aon Report

The study, titled "Reputation Risk in the Cyber Age: The Impact on Shareholder Value," states that crisis communication must be “instant and global” for a company’s stock to survive something such as a data breach or a bad public relations event.

How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross

The NPR host offers eight spicy tips for having better conversations.


Q:  If I do a TV news interview, won’t reporters change my answers in the edit?

A:  From Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications:  It would be utterly unethical for any journalist to put words in your mouth by chopping up an interview and rearranging your words to say something other than what you intended. In my 20 years running TV newsrooms, I never saw this happen. And if I did, I’d fire them on the spot. However, if the response you give a reporter goes on and on, it’s possible only a part of your answer will make it into their broadcast story – which may blur your context. To avoid this, develop and rehearse crisp, concise and quotable messages lasting no more than seven to ten seconds. Invest in media training to sharpen your delivery and learn interview control techniques.

Got a question about crisis communications, issues management or reputation management? We've got the answers. Send your question to

Not Everything is a Crisis

Most crises are unexpected and sudden - a traffic accident, explosion, fire, chemical leak, social media attack or criminal arrest.

While a crisis usually appears to be sudden, sometimes you should have seen it coming.  For example, activists who hate your product, lax enforcement of company policies and procedures, deferred maintenance on heavy equipment, or instability in your leadership ranks. 

More often than not, what you're probably facing is an issue, a situation that can and should have been foreseen. For instance, three months from now you know you're going to close a plant, discontinue a product, get a new board chair, acquire a company or announce a rate hike.

Whether it's a crisis or an issue, carefully crafted communications targeting the appropriate audience at the right time can go a long way toward mitigating the amount of reputational damage you experience and the work you need to do to restore confidence among your stakeholders.
Identifying an issue early gives you the added ability to craft a well-rounded strategic plan that not only identifies what you say, it enables you to carefully consider allies you might enlist, initiatives you might employ to blunt the effectiveness of your adversaries and other tactics designed to protect your market. Are there threats looming on your horizon you should address now?  Let us help you create the communications to help you avoid them from evolving from issues you can manage to crises you can’t avoid.

While we sell "crisis" (hence our website name, ), the professionals at Hennes Communications understand the difference between crises and issues.  

And now, we hope you do, too.

For Our Attorney Friends

Brevity. Please.
I recently had the pleasure of moderating a Continuing Legal Education panel titled “Leading Through the Hurricane.”  You may find the instructions I gave to the panel prior to the seminar to be of interest:

So, what do I need from you?  First and foremost, brevity.  You have just minutes (moments, actually) to describe the situation you faced and how that situation was handled, thereby teaching a valuable lesson to those in the audience who are certainly hanging on your every word. 

Speaking of brevity, I’m reminded of something originally said by President Woodrow Wilson (though often attributed to The Great Emancipator), related to me by the Internet Goddess Siri, custodian of all wisdom that is known and likely to be known:

“How long does it take you to prepare one of your speeches?” asked a friend of President Wilson.  “That depends on the length of the speech,” answered the President. “If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”

Brevity.  Rarely seen in the courthouse, at the law firms where I often lecture, or at Nighttown where I frequently run into members of the Bar at the bar, giving the word “drone” new meaning – and I’m not talking about the trendy flying machines your hip friend now bores you about.

Without a doubt, the case studies you’re set to talk about are indeed compelling – of this, I kid not.  On top of that, each of you are experienced lawyers, raconteurs and communicators, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound AND, at the same time, offer detail your family pet would no doubt find fascinating. 

However, you have but 15 minutes to tell your tale, from beginning to middle to end, including a summation that I'm certain will do justice to Clarence Darrow, Clarence Thomas, Clarence Kelly, Clarence Williams III and Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford. 

But if you fail in your quest to be concise, if the grandeur of the panel sweeps aside your best intentions to honor both the letter and spirit of brevity, it won’t be me, Your Moderator, who suffers offense (though I will do my very best to diplomatically point out your failure from the podium).  Instead, the last panelist will suffer, for I shall be forced to reduce that speaker’s 15 minutes in a commensurate manner, potentially leaving her with time but to wish the audience safe travels home.

I look forward to seeing you shortly before the seminar begins when you share your memories and expertise about the time you helped lead in a time of crisis.  But know this: at the conclusion of the panel, the audience will vote on the best case study.  Also known as “shortest.”

Bruce Hennes, Your Moderator
You have a situation. 
We have a strategy.  

Because the Court of Public Opinion is always in session.

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Short Takes

Rex Reed Says Goodbye to the Biggest Stars of 2018  The Observer

The Best TV Shows, Movies, Albums, Books, Podcasts, Sports Figures, Video Games, Photos, Food Stories & Gadgets of 2018  Poynter

Public Speaking Is No Longer a 'Soft Skill.' It's Your Key to Success in Any Field

Our Favorite Facts of 2018  New York Times

An Editor From the Great War Coaches Us On Our Writing  Poynter

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