In the last several years Cleveland Metroparks and its CEO, Brian Zimmerman, have enlisted the help of Crisis PR specialists, Hennes Communications (formerly known as Hennes-Paynter Communications), spending less than $25K over those years for the service. Hennes currently charges $400 per hour for their base fee and more for weekend or emergency reaction times.
Some reporters are calling foul play for Metroparks calling in the experts, but even from their own reports, on The Scene and Cleveland.com, the list of times Hennes has been brought in are the type of reasons any conscientious organization – corporation, not-for-profit or government agency – hires an expert for help. And many of them include times when reporters from these news agencies have requested interviews or documents in an obvious effort to dig up dirt. Well duh!
Other times the Crisis PR experts have helped for situations including accidental deaths in the Metroparks and beaches, a toddler managing to get into the Cheetah exhibit at the zoo (though no harm done there), and pay raises over a five-year period for the CEO. There were some training sessions and planning for possible crises as well.
Some of the best basic advice given should be noted by all who may face a media crisis – be open and transparent as quickly as possible.
The nature of media has changed drastically over the last ten years, fact checking isn’t always as thorough as it should be, and “reporters” may or may not have any real training as such. Disaster can strike a company without warning in the nature of a comment going viral. So, is it feasible for any entity to ignore the opportunity of hiring Crisis PR specialists?
In this situation, much has been made of the public funds used to bring specialists on board. But even if you figure the largest amount reported, just under $25K, beginning in 2014 (other time frames included 2010, and 2012 for a similar total amount), that’s still less than an average of $10K per year. If a part-time employee without the necessary expertise had been hired, that cost would blow the $10K out of the water between salary and benefits.
Good crisis PR helps calm those in difficult, sometimes even horrendous situations. It gets information out quickly in a way that fosters better understanding and less panic and anxiety. Sometimes it may even require a bit of intervention moving people and companies to adopt more consumer-friendly approaches and products. All-in-all, not a bad thing to offer this social-media-driven world.