Legal Blog

A Video Conversation with David Nevins, President and CEO of Nevins & Associates on Crisis Management

Click here for Part 1 Helping clients meet their business goals with bottom line-focused marketing and media relations David NevinsDavid Nevins is the president and CEO of Nevins & Associates, a public relations firm based in Towson, MD. Nevins & Associates provides strategic communications services to a wide variety of regional and national companies in industries such as retail, financial, healthcare, and more. David and his company boast over 30 years of experience in marketing and PR. Since starting Nevins & Associates in 1983, David has also acted as head of Comcast SportsNet, Mid-Atlantic (2001–2002) and serves in a leadership capacity at numerous business and civic organizations such as Board of Governors for the Center Club, Maryland Public Television, the Jewish National Fund, and the Towson Business Association. Last year, David co-founded Protégé Executive Coaching & Consulting, a local executive coaching and management consulting firm.   EDWIN WARFIELD: Can you describe the role PR plays in crisis management? DAVID NEVINS: Crisis management is something we have to do, and certainly we hope that most of our clients do not have crises on a very frequent basis. This is a topic on which I lecture—occasionally around the country, but often in the mid-Atlantic area—and I like to tell the story that the airline industry, in the early days, they had a crisis management plan and their plan was this literally: if a plane would go down, they would send a team out to the crash site, and it was a team of painters and the first thing they would do is paint out the logo on the downed plane. That was the beginning of how they dealt with crisis. Then, when the TV cameras came you wouldn’t know it was TWA or United or whatever the case may be. So I’m proud to say that crisis management has evolved a little bit since that point in time, and what we try to teach our clients today is that crisis management is like a wound, and your reputation will begin to heal as soon as the wound is cleaned out. If the wound is not fully cleaned out, then it can get infected, and the wound can linger and linger and linger, and we’ve certainly seen myriad examples of that throughout the years. And when I say cleaned out what I mean is tell the story, be honest, have high integrity, share the information with the public because the American public is—as we’ve seen—we’re an incredibly forgiving people, if we feel we know the entirety of the story. But the philosophy is be honest, be complete, share the story, if you made a mistake, admit the mistake, apologize. Many local restaurants, who on occasion have mistakenly served food where folks became ill or whatever the case may be, we always just advise them: be honest, admit what happened, but otherwise talk about all the safety protocols that you have—and if you didn’t have enough safety protocols in place, put them in place and move on with your business—tell the story: what happened? We’ll help you tell the story, but be honest about it and have high integrity and your wound will heal. How has social media changed how that happens—how the information is consumed and disseminated—in your view? The world of social media today has caused a lot of issues for businesses. We handle a number of local restaurants, and one of the things that every restaurant faces is that you go in for a meal, and let’s just say that nine out of ten times you have a fabulous meal, and one out of ten—and maybe the one out of ten could be one out of a hundred—but whatever that one is, those folks go home, and they go on the Internet, and they go to a rating site and they blast the restaurant: “How could this have happened?” And “I had the worst server ever!” And “My steak was overcooked, or undercooked, and this was rare…” But the other nine out of ten who had a great meal—almost none of them ever go home and say, “Let’s go on OpenTable and give that restaurant an incredible rating.” How would your company solve that problem? One of the things we would do with a local restaurant is very much encourage them to encourage their satisfied patrons to review the restaurant, and encourage them—and incentivize them if necessary—because the fact of the matter is if nine out of ten, or 99 out of a 100 people are happy with an experience, if we can get more of them to review it and say they’re happy, then the happy customers will overwhelm the unhappy customers. That’s a simple example, but one of the things that social media has done is make sure that marketing and PR firms will always have business, so for that I’m grateful. But it is very much a rapidly changing world. That whole world is clearly still in its infancy. We have to, on behalf of our clients, help them deal with it. I think, for the most part, we are, but it’s constantly changing and you’re developing expertise in new tools to use to overcome certain image challenges, and how to create a good brand for your business, and so on and so forth.

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