5 Crisis Communication Tips to Prevent Secret Service Style Delays

clancyBy Gerard Braud

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy said it took five days before he was informed that a car carrying two agents struck a security barrier outside the White House.

How long does it take in your company for you to find out about an event that could be a potential crisis that requires you to implement your crisis communications plan and begin communicating with the media, employees, customers and other stakeholders?

Most public relations people tell me it is a constant challenge for the home office, leadership, and PR staff to find out what is going on in the field. Often, you find out only because the rest of the world has already found out and the issue is getting negative attention on social media or with the mainstream media.

How do you change this? It begins with new policies and procedures, supported by employee training, as outlined in the five tips below.

The reality is that the average employee, supervisor or manager is mostly afraid that they will get in trouble if they report a problem, large or small.

But an unreported problem creates problems for those of you who are the company expert in public relations, crisis communications and media relations.

Ultimately, you need to know about events that could damage the company’s reputation and revenue.

What are your solutions?

Tip 1: Conduct training programs that inform employees about the need to protect the company’s reputation and revenue through good reporting. Many employees and leaders never really make the full connection to the bottom line. Help them.

Tip 2: Establish an easy way for employees to notify the home office of a potential problem.

Tip 3: Train employees to get in the habit of using that notification method.

Tip 4: Provide positive recognition for employees who use the reporting mechanism and appropriate repercussions for employees who fail to report an event that could damage either reputation or revenue.

Tip 5: Do your part to speed communications by spending time on a clear sunny day to write a library of pre-written, fill-in-the-blank news releases so that you are not responsible for delaying crisis communications.

Crisis communications is a team effort and the team needs to be built for speed, both in the field and in the public relations office. One way to address this is to use the current Secret Service headlines to open a discussion with your executive staff.

If you have a great system you’d like to share with your public relations colleagues, please send me your thoughts in a guest blog post. gerard (at)

If you would like to discuss best practices for a public relations and crisis communications team built for speed, feel free to call me at 985-624-9976.

Crisis Communication Leadership: Power of a Resignation

It is always a good thing in crisis management when the person at the top says, “The buck stops here,” and they are willing to resign because a significant crisis happened under their watch.

Listen to my opinion with Radio Host Kate Delaney:

This does 2 things. From a public relations and crisis communications standpoint it:

1) Sends a strong signal that someone is being held responsible

2) It communicates that change is coming

Julia Pierson, a 31 year secret service veteran resigned as head of the President’s protection agency as a result of an increasing number of secret service failures.

A true leader demonstrates good character by stepping down when they are unable to manage a crisisJulia Pierson and when the crisis gets worse. Some of the scandals and shortcomings happened before Pierson took the job. But she was also appointed to clean up the agency last year after the Cartagena, Colombia prostitute scandal in 2012.

Before she could even start to clean up the previous scandal, three secret service agents responsible for protecting the President in Amsterdam were sent home for being drunk. One was reportedly passed out in the hallway of their hotel. Pierson, as leader, put the agents on administrative leave.

But when Omar Gonzalez jumped the fence and got inside the White House, it became clear that too many problems were happening too fast. At the same time a story broke about a November 11, 2011 incident in which a man parked his car on a street near the White House and reportedly fired a semiautomatic rifle multiple times, hitting the building.

Too many security lapses means somebody needs to take the heat for the ongoing crises.

I’ve written many blogs in the past few weeks about the NFL scandals and the need for Roger Goodell to demonstrate he has leadership by admitting his repeated failings and stepping aside. Julia Pierson is a leadership role model for crisis communications and crisis management. Goodell would be well served to learn from her example.

When a crisis strikes where you work, a good leader makes the crisis go away and communicates what happened and what changes are on the horizon. Often your job in public relations is to be the one to support the leader and guide them to make the right decisions.

By Gerard Braud