Meet the Expert
- Co-founder and President of STARKMAN, a public relations, branding, and marketing firm with offices in New York City and San Francisco.
- Clients have included Fortune 100 companies, national not-for-profits, leading financial services firms, and startup companies.
- Previously held leadership positions at respected PR and investor relations firms, including senior vice president at The MWW Group, where he oversaw corporate communications and investor relations, and Morgen-Walke Associates, where he was responsible for the firm’s corporate communications practice.
- Worked as an editor and reporter at major newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, including The Wall Street Journal, American Banker, The Detroit News, The Toronto Star, and The (Montreal) Gazette. Earlier, he worked as a copywriter at W.B. Doner in Michigan.
- Eric is cited in the acknowledgements of four books written by leading financial journalists.
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Managing the Nuances of a Corporate Crisis
- Companies do not take preventive steps that can help them avoid a crisis.
- Many companies fail to take the steps that could enable them to avoid a crisis. They may have ethical standards in place but give only "lip service" to those business practices. Some companies may not require that all of their employees follow the rules.
- Companies do not have a predetermined crisis management action plan in place.
- Companies with no crisis plan in place get caught off guard. When a crisis occurs, they find themselves at the mercy of a slow information-gathering process. This leads to delays in decision-making, and belated communications with affected audiences. Senior executives who lack pre-crisis media training can undermine the company's position with lackluster, weak engagements with reporters.
- Companies fail to have an adequate P.R. apparatus in place.
- In the absence of confirmed information and transparency from the company, rumors and opinions from outsiders (subject matter experts, regulators, attorneys, etc.) take hold and lead the media's narrative.
Leaders with poor communications skills mistake the simple distribution of a press release as proper crisis communication. There is a tendency to broadcast crisis-related updates rather than wholly engage affected constituencies and give them a platform to voice their concerns and questions. Pressure by media and other affected parties to provide immediate comment on the crisis leads to further ill-advised speculation.
- When a crisis suddenly hits, the lack of a game plan slows communication.
- When a company has no predetermined crisis management action plan in place, it can slow the information-gathering process, delay important decision-making, and result in belated communications with affected audiences. In a crisis, a timely well-considered response can make all the difference.
- During a crisis, lawyers often urge a response that can damage the brand.
- In the heat of a crisis, a company's understandable desire to protect its legal position can be allowed to outweigh its need to safeguard the brand. This can result in infrequent, vague statements to stakeholders that only increase tension and distrust in the short-term, and may damage the company's brand in the long run.
- Companies sometimes attempt to "spin" the news.
- A company in crisis will sometimes attempt to suppress negative information rather than be wholly transparent. This only creates a loss of credibility and exacerbates an already difficult situation. The truth will eventually come out. It's better to be honest and forthcoming from the start.
- Employees are often left out of the loop.
- Employees are not prioritized in the communication cycle, leading to hard-to-eradicate distrust, skepticism, feelings of disrespect, and speculation via social media and other platforms.
- Lack of effective communication leads to speculation via social media.
- Social media increases the likelihood that unauthorized and inaccurate information will be dispersed by outside speculators – and sometimes by well-meaning but misinformed employees.
Managing the Nuances of a Corporate Crisis: Common Problems