The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NW learns that crisis responses can make or break

By Ivy Claire/ reporter

From Ebola outbreaks to exploding phones, crises can come in many different forms and, by definition, happen when people least expect them, NW students were told Oct. 13. 

J.J. McIntyre revealed the importance of crisis communication and elaborated through examples of modern crises and the way organizations responded to them. Effective crisis communication is what moves crisis to opportunity, “making organizations more resilient,” he said.

The way an organization responds to a crisis can make or break its reputation.

“There’s two types of response: tactical and communicative,” he said. “Often the communicative is what gets organizations into trouble. It looks like they’re hiding something or not trustworthy.”

If dealt with incorrectly, a crisis can be financially devastating.

For example, when former airline USAir faced allegations of irresponsible practices following airplane crashes, it ineffectively combined two responses, McIntyre said.

First, it employed denial and publicly rejected the allegations. It then adopted a corrective action stance and called in experts to analyze the quality of safety in its operation. The conflicting responses received wide media coverage and damaged the company’s reputation.

“USAir doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.

All crisis responses fall into categories of Benoit’s Image Restoration Theory, which outlines and categorizes the methods that can be used to restore an image when it has been called into question.

According to McIntyre, an understanding of these strategies allows organizations and individuals alike to “have better excuses” and create “arguments to make yourself appear better.”

“The other side of crisis creates opportunity for organizations and stakeholders,” he said.

Another company recovered from crisis while improving its image and affecting worldwide change.

Following a series of poisoning deaths that occurred when individuals consumed Tylenol’s acetaminophen tablets laced with cyanide, the parent company Johnson & Johnson took immediate action.

Denying that the drug tampering happened within its facilities, McIntyre said, the company shifted the blame to an insane individual and issued a mass recall of all Tylenol products. It worked aggressively to take corrective action and in less than two months put Tylenol products back on shelves in triple-sealed packaging.

McIntyre said these measures assured consumers the product was safe as long as the packaging was undisturbed and “prevented that crisis from happening again.” The tamper-evident seal used by Johnson & Johnson has been adopted on bottled packaging throughout the pharmaceutical industry.

The study of crisis communication incorporates philosophy and psychology and is “a bridge between communication and public relations,” McIntyre said. In addition to teaching and research, McIntyre has worked as a crisis communication consultant for businesses and government agencies.

“A crisis communication consultant is able to make sense out of what appears to an organization … as a very chaotic situation,” he said.

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