Rutgers, Barchi & What Organizations Can Learn About The Crisis Domino Effect

“Division I athletics are probably the best marketing tool we have in terms of getting the Rutgers’ name out there,” he said. “If they don’t know the name and they haven’t seen the brand, they’re not going to even look at you.” — Robert L. Barchi, Rutgers president, September 4, 2012 in Star-Ledger interview.

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Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi

A story in The New York Times today about Rutgers is a great example of how a crisis in one part of your organization can result in the media covering (or uncovering) bigger problems inside your administration. And that unplanned media attention can severely harm the entire reputation of an institution. I’ve always advised my clients to beware the smoldering fire, that slow-brewing crisis that suddenly envelops your administration (or your business) and brings greater harm to your institutional reputation.

I’ll now call this the Crisis Domino Effect or CDE.  The CDE is akin to that stuffy nose that leads to a cold that leads to a flu that won’t go away for weeks or months. And just like you try to throw everything at the cold (vitamins, OJ, medicines), you may try multiple tactics to rid your campus or business of the unwelcome media barrage – plus the social media inferno that either follows traditional media or motivates reporters to write stories.

You may “decline comment” or even curse at a reporter or editor for writing that story. You may try to put out a wishy washy statement that gets you in even MORE hot water with your critical audiences. Or, you may sincerely try to get the messaging just right, but you fail to convey or attach any human emotion to the spiraling crisis.

Let’s face it. If I’m a parent who a month ago was thinking about sending my child to Rutgers, it’s likely I’m going to revisit that decision in light of the gross mishandling of the belated firing of Mike Rice, the former men’s basketball coach. (As one of my guests on The Crisis Show pointed out this week, if that was his kid getting abused by a coach, he’d be driving to the school to confront that coach personally.)

It’s safe to assume that same parent considering sending their child to Rutgers has heard about the coaching fiasco. Combine that with today’s article –which focuses on numerous other criticisms of President Robert L. Barchi — and good chance I’m crossing Rutgers off the list. That’s why Barchi and Rutgers now have a full blown crisis and are scrambling to stop the bleeding. And as long as Tim Pernetti, the embattled athletic director remains, the loss of reputation won’t stop soon.

The Rutgers lesson is one I’ve seen so many times. A company, campus or other organization thinks it has an isolated HR problem, when in fact it’s much bigger than that. And, as Rutgers is experiencing, by “investigating” instead of “terminating” Rice last year, it now has a much more costly crisis in terms of litigation as well as lost revenue from those parents of prospective students who have now crossed Rutgers off their lists.

It’s also important to note that while this (thankfully) is not as serious as the Sandusky-Paterno-Penn State scandal, the story is similar in that horrible behavior emanating from the athletics department was ignored by college officials for years. Penn State has paid $208,000 per month to a big public relations firm since April 2012 for an engagement that was scheduled to end this month.

When you add up the costs of litigation, lost revenue and the cost to rebuild reputation, it’s clear that eliminating HR problems with decisive, early actions save reputations later –and monies can be spent more intelligently where all students benefit most. What do you think? Please comment below.

LawFirmsPR Now Known As Rich Klein Crisis Management

Effective February 9, 2013, LawFirmsPR changed its name to Rich Klein Crisis Management to more accurately reflect the majority of the work we now perform for a wide variety of clients. It also syncs nicely with The Crisis Show, a project that we launched in June 2012 to educate leaders about all aspects of crisis management.

Rich Klein has specialized in law firm public relations and law firm crisis communications since the early 1990’s. In recent years, more and more non-law firms sought his counsel for crisis management and online reputation issues, which prompted this name change.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our work thus far and especially to those friends and colleagues who visit this blog.

Although we changed our name, we remain committed to providing valuable content here and on many other social media channels.

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The Crisis Show

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The Two Minute Warning – Crisis Management Tips in 2 Minutes

Every few months, I’ll be posting highlights from various episodes of The Crisis Show. The show airs on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT via Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube and typically runs one hour. To date, our show has been seen in 68 countries. Our growing archive is believed to be the largest online library of video content devoted exclusively to crisis management, crisis communications, litigation PR and social media crises.

For those who just want some crisis tips, here’s your two-minutes of warnings:

Crisis Show Highlights: India Blackout, Chick-fil-A, Twitter/NBC, Hyundai and Tips

Here’s a replay of Episode #7 of The Crisis Show, which aired on August 1, 2012.

We covered many crises/controversies, including the blackout in India, Chick-fil-A, NBC/Twitter and London2012, Hyundai, Mitt Romney and more.

The Crisis Show, with co-hosts Rich Klein, Melissa Agnes and Jonathan Bernstein, airs every Wednesday at 7 p.m. EDT via Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube.

For more information about the show, please visit The Crisis Show website.

We welcome your comments, suggestions for future shows and questions about various crisis situations. Please email

questions@TheCrisisShow.com  or TheCrisisShow@gmail.com.

The Crisis Show, Episode #3 – June 27, 2012

Here’s the video from Episode #3 of The Crisis Show via Google Hangouts and TheCrisisShow channel on YouTube.

For more information about the show, which airs every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET, please visit

http://www.TheCrisisShow.com