|Athletic position for any sport. Photo: Science for Sport|
The conference was chalk-full quality education, and the National Association of Sports Commissions had the privilege of facilitating pre-conference education to kick-off the event. One of the speakers was Marilyn Hannes, President of SeaWorld San Diego. Hannes spoke with truth and candor about crisis communication and planning by drawing on the very real and public challenges faced by her organization in recent years.
|Hannes presenting to ACES executives|
Hannes mentioned multiple times in her presentation that she wished SeaWorld had done a better job articulating all the great things the organization was already doing for marine life and the health of the ocean long before coming to its non-glowing return to the public eye through the Orca Whale controversy. To put it simply, SeaWorld was sitting back on its heels, the antithesis of "athletic position" in business.
The organization could have been banking goodwill to draw on during rough times. But it wasn't. There are many, many more nuances to this particular story, but the point is that often times, whether a small organization or a big one, we do not do a stellar job telling our story in advance. In any industry. Our reactive nature can wind up hurting our organization by calling into question credibility when times get tough.
Dr. Daniel Diermeier from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern has an excellent book called Reputation Rules in which he details how an organization can surmount dire PR situations. It's a fascinating look at many of the biggest organizational controversies of our time and how they did - or didn't - overcome. The focus is restoring public trust by addressing four elements: empathy, transparency, expertise and commitment.
At the ACES opening reception, I got to hear new USOC CEO, Sarah Hirshland, convey her vision for the future of the Olympic Movement. She nailed Diermeier's four elements of trust succinctly and convincingly. There's no doubt it's a long way to recovery for the US Olympic community, and only time will tell the outcome, however.
|Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the USOC. Photo: TeamUSA|
Unfortunately, it's not "if" but "when" an unpleasing circumstance will hit the press. Regardless of the size or type of your organization, it is prudent to have resources and plans in place, along with a whole bunch of goodwill. As Hannes described, this effort isn't a "one and done", it's diligent, purposeful, and perhaps most importantly, continual.
|Go Red Sox! Photo: K. Sweet|