By Gerard Braud
Penn State and Jerry Sandusky are making crisis communications headlines today because of a new report prepared for Penn State.
What every university, corporation and institution should take away from this is a global lesson about crisis management, crisis communications and how to handle a smoldering crisis the way an expert would and should.
In 1998 a smoldering crisis was exposed. At that time, the university should have 1) fully investigated, 2) reported any potential crimes to police and 3) called their own news conference to announce their findings against their own coach.
Most institutions around the world fail to do this. Why? They fear the negative publicity. Why? They think they can handle it quietly on their own “within the family.” Wrong.
Especially when crimes are being committed, someone will eventually bring it forth to the public. The negative impact is lessened when you tell the world rather than having someone else tell the world what happened.
The longer you wait, the worse the impact will be for the reputation and financial stability of the institution. This is true for universities, churches, governments and corporations.
In this case, the horrific nature of the crimes against children is reason enough to take the story public, but even after this report, many institutions around the world will still do what Penn State did: they will try to wish the crisis way.
The sooner you take the crisis public, the less the impact because you now control the flow of information as the official source. You have the ability to create a long term strategy for asking for forgiveness, saying you are sorry, and providing restitution to those who were affected.
This approach is the right thing to do from a moral and ethical perspective.