Crisis Management

Spring term 2014 I took a Crisis Management corse through theUniversity of Oregon  SOJC thought by Kelli Matthews. This corse explored the ins and outs of managing inevitable public relations crises. During the term we had two crises simulations that required hands-on work.

The first simulation was lead by Jonathan Bernstein, a seasoned crisis management professional.  We began the day by going over the most important points in his piece, Keeping the Wolves at Bay. Our class was broken up into five groups of five and when handed a single page document explaining the mock crisis and the details that was known at the time. This “assignment” consisted of a 45 minute session where teams developed key messages and prepared for on camera interviews. Next, each team filtered through the SOJC studio and had mock interviews lead by Bernstein. He attempted to trips us up and distract us from our key messages (It may have worked…). Immediately following this we compiled everyones interview and projected them in front of the class. Bernstein would pause our interviews at the faults and discuss what we could have done better. Although slightly ruthless, this experience was unforgettable. Within four hours I was able to have tangible experience that mimicked the management of a crisis.

Media training with Jonathan Bernstein.

Media training with Jonathan Bernstein.

The second simulation was broader and encompassed the crisis as a whole.

Once again out class was split into small groups. This time we were all assigned a specific government affiliation. Some groups represented a town’s police department while others represented the state governor’s office.  By use of supplemental reading, each group became familiar with their respective personas. With the help of Kelli, a simulation website and three proctors in Virginia our class was given a live-time mock terrorist attack and the reigns to control it. Throughout the four hours our class would discover further developments and the simulation would change based off of our management and decisions. We were required to response via press releases and social media. Concluding the day we hosted a mock press conference where elected individuals represented government personal and were interviewed by reporting students. The simulation was a huge success! The live experience and adrenaline filled work gave the class a look into the management of  real PR crisis.

Mock Crisis

Mock Crisis

Preparing for a Presentation

Each person must find his or her own techniques and tricks because there is no right way to prepare for a presentation. I discovered my “right way” winter term of my junior year at the UO. On May 28, 2014 I put together a mock presentation for The League to Save Lake Tahoe for my Journalism 452 class. My process followed the guidelines below.

I had the pleasure of taking a presentations class taught by Mark Lewis. Mark, single-handedly, changed the way that I present.


To start any great presentation you must first focus on content. The information and context must be relevant and perfected.


  • Numbers
  • Comparisons
  • Examples

Cut out:

  • Fluff
  • Repetitive context
  • Irrelevant/unnecessary information

Visual Aid

The visual aid is an important element of any presentation. For my presentation I created a Prezi. When using a slideshow for poster board format less is more. Graphics should be simple, clean and words should be kept to a minimum. This allows for elaboration on each slide or image.


As the famous saying goes, “practice makes perfect!” Practicing out loud is the bare minimum way to prepare for a good presentation. To go above and beyond, practice your presentation in front of a mirror or a group of friends. To take this a step further, record yourself on camera and play it back to find your distracting gestures or filler words.


Always make sure that your materials interface with your presenting space. While you are doing this, familiarize yourself with the space and what the room looks like. When it is your turn to presentation remember the presentation starts when you stand up not when your slides turn on. Stay composed and confident while walking to the stage.

  1. Ground yourself. Take a strong shoulder with stance.”Feel the force from the center of the earth!” -Mark Lewis
  2. Smile and thank. Lookout at your audience and reward them with a smile and thank them for their time.
  3. Introduce yourself without “up-speaking.” Use a lower tone at the end of your name. Believe it or not, this make you sound confident.
  4. Look for an “audience angel.” This is someone in the audience that is nodding along with you. By locking eye contact with this person it draws in other attention to the connection you have made. Therefore their attention focuses back to what you are saying. Not only does this trick aid to audience engagement, but it also make you, the speaker, feel more comfortable.
  5. End your presentation with “thank you.” Everyone’s time and attention is valuable.

“Learn the rules so you know how to break them!” -Mark Lewis. Now that you know how it should be done, change what you like. There is NO right way to present.


Snapchat CEO gets Screen Shotted

Photo via Jordan Crook

Photo via Jordan Crook

On Wednesday, May 28, 2014, tech site, Valleywag, published horrifying emails sent from Snapchat CEO and Cofounder Evan Spiegel. The emails were sent between Spiegel and his fraternity brothers when he attended Stanford University.

In a written response, Spiegel defended these sexist emails, “I’m obviously mortified and embarrassed that my idiotic e-mails during my fraternity days were made public,” he said. “I have no excuse. I’m sorry I wrote them at the time and I was a jerk to have written them. They in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women.”

Many of the emails were too sexually explicit for sites like to publish.

Snapchat, founded in 2011, is a photo sharing app that is popular among teens and young adults. The app allows users to send photos and videos that disappear after a few seconds.

This public relations disaster is certainly cringeworthy. Has the apology been the best move Spiegel can make? Due to the fact that this behavior was from recent years this particular incident may need more than a “sorry for my past” response.

Unfortunately, the silicon valley tech world continues to celebrate young men who are sexist. many people agree that Spiegel is possibly “getting off easy due to the environment he works in. “[Spiegal’s] right to be embarrassed, the emails display the worst of the ‘bro’ mentality that continues to contribute to the marginalization of women in Silicon Valley.” –Jordan Crook, Long time acquaintance of Spiegel.

It is interesting to observe a element of our culture that does not hold behavior to the same standards as the rest of our society. It raises the question, are public relations disasters particular by industry?

The Power of Storytelling

In today’s society people are constantly drowning in information. The countless advertisements, stories and campaigns can be overlooked if there is not a sticky message.  Storytelling can be used to create a lasting impression on people. Many times organizations and companies will use a story to relate to its audience. This technique provides a longer lasting memory.

Nike took this idea and ran with it. The Make It Count campaign published a 5-minute video went viral that followed two men’s journey around the world. The video captured the essence of stopping to enjoy the surrounding beauty, which is often forgotten by this generation.

The genius behind the campaign was the story that was told. Viewers took away a personal feeling and connection with the Nike Fuel Band rather than just viewing an ad. The popular video created a lot of buzz and successfully benefited Nike.

When creating a campaign and implementing the storytelling technique it is important to be authentic. Using a clear and relevant message is necessary for a successful campaign. Nike did all of this and that is why its story is remembered and was successful.

Leaders That Give Back

When organizations, program, athletes, or individuals succeed they generate media attention. This media attention is valuable to a person or company’s brand and there are many ways that this limelight can continue in a positive way. Many times a social corporate responsibility campaign can achieve this goal. Lauryn Williams and United States Olympic Committee took this idea and “ran” with it.

Williams, a four time Olympian, is the fifth person ever to medal in both Summer and Winter Olympic games. Her iconic success was put to good use when she visited Dallas Metro YMCA after-school program at Hampton Preparatory School in early May of 2014. Through the Team for Tomorrow program Williams told her story about following her dreams and was able to inspire children ages 5-12 to do the same. The Team for Tomorrow campaign gives back to communities through athlete ambassadors and youth organizations. 

From a public relations stance, the implication of a program like Team for Tomorrow brings positive attention to the organization.



Emotional Campaigns

Emotionally charged campaigns  can be used to intrigue the public in a heart wrenching way. The use of emotion can be both positive and negative.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is an organization that uses the heartstrings to convey its key message. The majority of the organization’s campaign work uses the negative effect to engage the audience.

The use of emotion and storytelling persuades shows the negative aftermath of a drunk driving accident.

Coca-Cola used emotion in a different way to promote its 100 years of success. Through sentimental moments Coca-Cola attempted to show its relation to a century of happiness.

Coca-Cola hoped that viewers would relate the positive feelings associated with birth to its product. This method is effective but also difficult.

Benefits of using emotionally charged campaigns:

  1. Provides a good hook to engage the audience
  2. Appeals to customers’ emotion
  3. Effective in the marketplace
  4. Using shock factor can leave lasting impact

7th round of the NFL Draft

The St. Louis Rams have drafted the first openly gay football player in the 2014 NFL draft. This progressive move, in the seventh round, made history and marked a positive step forward for the gay community.

Gay rights conversation is a prevalent topic across the globe and the acceptance of homosexual relationships is becoming more popular than ever. The NFL’s reputation was put on line line when Michael Sam came out to the public. Although criticism was bound to come from either side, experts agree that rhe Rams drafting avoided a PR crisis.

“[the NFL] was looking at a possible public relations hit if Sam was not drafted.” –The Associated Press  

The next step is for Sam to prove himself on the football field.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated: “I want to see Michael Sam get an opportunity to play in the NFL. We like to say the NFL is the ultimate meritocracy. If you can play football, they want to see you play. The teams want you. The fans want you. And that’s ultimately what it’s all about. I have great respect for Michael, his courage, his decision to become public, and I’m optimistic that he’s going to get that opportunity, and hopefully he can play at this level.”

The NFL and Sam have done a glowing jobs with the buzz surrounding this news. Both parties used this touching personal event to demonstrate positive PR.