Keep your crisis out of politics, if at all possible

A crisis is often bad enough just bubbling away with its own acidic corrosion. Do all you can to steer it clear of the political arena if you want to galvanize your organization’s reputation.

Look at the hue [from the Obama administration] and cry [from the Catholic Church, Republican leaders and candidates and evangelicals] about the administration’s rule that religious-based institutions — such as Notre Dame and Fordham and Sisters Hospital — must pay for their employees’ contraceptives.

Here are the facts:

No place of worship — church, synagogue, mosque, temple or storefront church — is included.

The government would not apply the rule before August 1, 2012.

Any religious organization that chooses can receive a one-year deferral until August 1, 2013.

Somewhere between those dates, you’ve probably heard, there’s going to be presidential and Congressional elections. [The whole hubbub could be moot.]

And, 28 states currently require health insurers to pay for contraception. They presumably do so for employees of religious-based members and affiliates, such as colleges, hospitals and day-care centers without rancor and complaint about curtailing religious freedom.

But, as they said in a former life, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Republicans see a too-good-to-be-true gaffe by the Obama administration at a crucial stage of the presidential campaign. The White House presumably saw this as a way to shore up its liberal and moderate base. Administration officials sound by most accounts to either not have grasped the level of anger, or not worried about it.

But the main point here for crisis managers is that facts can end up as so many snapped trees ground to kindling by an avalanche of political outrage, real or opportunistic.

Keep the possible political ramifications of your crisis in mind. Plan for it.

If you run an SPCA chapter in Niagara County and a report finds your personnel improperly euthanized animals, you should be certain that your crisis will go well beyond the facts to the politics of animal rights.

If you decide that your long-term partner in the fight against breast cancer runs programs on contraception and abortion, make sure you gauge and prepare for the furor that will come with eliminating Planned Parenthood’s funding, even as you lose sight of your core values and mission.

And if you played a somewhat subdued role and your team lost the Super Bowl, don’t get videotaped in a nightclub dancing bare-chested the night of the game like you won. You will be judged, Rob Gronkowski, by albeit old-fashioned politically correct standard that will hurt your reputation and diminish your earning power.

Politics is everywhere. In a crisis, it evolves from a dull background noise to bullhorn volume in moments.

Here is a link to a blog post from the White House: And here is an interesting article from Huffington Post about why Obama may be losing the fight:


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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