Friday, May 24, 2013

Issues Management from Frank Underwood

We had finished our Crisis Communication exam a month ago. It was a simulation in which an emergency occurred in a fictional plant and we had to deliver an appropriate response in under a few hours. With the emergence of social media, the gap has closed for an organization's response to be released in a matter of minutes, but for this purpose we had enough stress. 

A scene from Netflix's House of Cards that I keep coming back to when thinking about crisis management is when Frank Underwood takes an immediate trip to his state because of a text-and-drive situation involving a controversial peach water tower. The actions Underwood took screams effective communication in more ways than one, thought I'd point them out.

1) First, he gathered all the facts. The moment he was informed of the situation, he was asking the right questions about what had happened.

2) He literally put what he was doing on hold (drafting an education reform bill) and personally went to the grieving family, putting people first.

3) His visit is not welcomed by the grieving family, yet his persistence pays off when he takes a moment during a church service to address the emotional pain felt by the community and the family. He segmented his audience from the community at large and the victim's family first-hand, putting people first.

4) In terms of what to do with the hideous orange water tower, Underwood proposed that the lights remain turned off during the day so as to reduce energy, and the money saved will go towards creating an educational scholarship named after the victim. This is a prime example of acting in the best interest of both parties: reduced future risk with the lights turned off and showing citizens that people come first.

There are costs associated with risks, and what Underwood did was essentially minimize the risks and therefore the costs by closely examining the issues. This could have very easily turned into a larger crisis, but the issues were managed early and managed well. 

The writing in this show is excellent, but there are plenty of real-life examples (good and bad) happening right now. All it takes is reading the paper and staying informed. 

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