Communicating in a Crisis

November 14th, 2008

As you’ve probably heard by now, the city of Philadelphia is strapped for cash. As a result of the cash crisis for the city, Mayor Michael Nutter has proposed closing dozens of libraries and pools, reducing salaries and laying off roughly 3,000 city employees. Nutter has even given himself an $18,500 pay cut.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, indeed. So drastic in fact, that Nutter went to D.C. today with his hand out. It was an “Oliver Twist” meets “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment as Nutter and mayors of Atlanta and Phoenix petitioned Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for funding.

So, what other big move has the city made? Cue the music. Dim the lights. Take your seats. The city is now posting the names of every business that owes more than $50,000 in taxes. The taxes total $27 million that should be in the city’s bank account. If you’re on the list, this is what we call bad public relations.

If ever there was a time and a place for some Crisis Communications 101, it is now. So, follow these three easy steps:

· Validate Concern

· Show Action

· Show Them You Care

These basic principles apply to everyone. They work for Nutter and the city. They work for the businesses that owe the city taxes (for this latter group, we add a fourth – pay your taxes).

So far, Nutter is doing the right things. We won’t know for a while if it works. But, if all other strategies fail, Nutter could start renting himself out as entertainment. Again, cue the music, dim the … well, you get the point. Check out Michael Nutter perform “Rapper’s Delight”.


Posted Under: Crisis Communications, Greater Philadelphia
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