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Bottom of the ninth.  Two outs.  The stadium holds its collective breath waiting and hoping for a pitcher’s Holy Grail – the perfect game.

This was the scene in Detroit last night before umpire Jim Joyce blew the third-out call that relegated even Ken Griffey, Jr.’s retirement announcement to a postscript.  Joyce’s egregiously bad call stole a perfect game away from Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, there is no doubt about that, but it is the aftermath that interests me.

After reviewing the replay, a clearly distraught Joyce admitted that he screwed up – badly and irreversibly.  “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said simply.

Almost invariably, admitting a mistake and apologizing for it is the best crisis communications strategy.  But the trick is you have to mean it.  Joyce did.  He could have defended the indefensible or chosen not to comment at all, but instead, Joyce offered Galarraga the only thing he could – an honest apology and acknowledgement of his perfect game.

The right words can soften the blow of just about any mistake.  Sure, Joyce’s name will now be mentioned alongside Don Denkinger and Rich Garcia.  And yes, 500 anti-Joyce Facebook pages and the website www.firejimjoyce.com sprung up within minutes of the call.  But the way Joyce has owned his error is doing a lot to mitigate hatred.

To his credit, Galarraga was a class act, both during the game and after.  No one would have blamed him for pulling a Jimmy Dugan, but Galarraga had a remarkably mature perspective on the evening’s events.  “I got a perfect game.  Maybe it’s not in the book, but I’m going to show my son the CD.”  (Okay, he probably meant DVD, but give the guy a break – he was just robbed of a perfect game!)

Posted by Katie Denis, Account Executive (@katiefoxdenis)

The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the views of Vehr Communications, LLC.

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I just read a very common sensical article in PRSA’s Tactics (April 2009) written by Michael L. Herman, APR titled “A cowboy’s guide to crisis management.”  PR professionals need to get it and read it (too bad it isn’t available online).

Not sure I fully appreciate the “cowboy” angle, but plenty of wise words nonetheless.  No doubt derived from years of experience.crisis41

Of course, Herman and virtually all professional communicators are strong advocates for the need to have crisis communications plans in place BEFORE the crisis hits.  Consider these common elements to most crises:

  • They are usually a surprise
  • They take control away from you
  • They attract public scrutiny
  • They are time-senstive and time-intensive
  • They threaten reputation, stability, financial health, competitive position, project viability and even the continued existence of an organization.

Serious stuff.  So, why have a plan in place in advance? 

Well, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you have purchased life or health insurance policies.  Chances are you said YES.

Now, ask yourself if you ever want to use the insurance you purchased.  Odds are the answer is HECK NO.  But, you bought it anyway, just in case.

Well, the same goes for investing in developing and then maintaining a crisis communications plan.

Makes a ton of sense … good business sense.

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.28.09