Crisis Communication


Crisis communication has always been of interest for me. As soon as I heard that the team behind the crisis management at LIVESTORNG (the foundation founded by Neil Armstrong) were presenting, I knew it was going to be beneficial session. The presenters; Rae Bazzarre and Katherine McLane both had a past in political PR and decided to try the non-profit side of PR for a relaxing change. This was very ironic, because soon after they began their work at LIVESTONG, the drug inquiries on Armstrong began. They took us through the stages and processes they went through with dealing with this issue.

Once the ‘rumor’ about Armstrong’s drug use became fact the two women were in full flight. The charity’s call center was a continuous buzz of calls from reporters. Bazzarre and McLane did not want to fuel the fire by making direct comments to the media about Armstrong’s wrongs, instead all their answers incorporated the organisation’s mission statement as an attempt to separate the association between Armstrong and LIVESTONG. This was effective because the reporters had to publish what they were saying which was sending out a positive message about the charity.

Eventually, Armstrong had to resign as the head of the organisation, and the two women work with him in creating his resignation statement. After losing such an influential person as the face of their company; Bazzarre and McLane had to revise a new marketing strategy that did not include him. They decided to contact real people who depend on the charity through their fight with cancer. They created brochures and advertisement campaigns that told the stories of real people who are battling cancer, have no life insurance and need the help of the charity in order to survive. People seemed to relate to this tactic and their donations continued to come in. Later, they created surveys for the people who receive assistance from the organization, to see whether they wanted another famous person as the face of LIVESTONG, or if they preferred real, everyday people as the ambassadors of the charity. Unanimously, the public voted to have the stories of real, ordinary people as the face of LIVESTONG.

During this time the media continuously called to see if they could get any information about Armstrong. The ladies devised and implemented a strategy where they did not comment on topics that were no longer associated with the charity. This was a very clever response as it helped LIVESTONG to distance itself from the Armstrong name, and it helped Armstrong move on from the company in peace.

In my opinion, the most intimidating aspect of crisis communication is the pressure from the media. However, I believe that Bazzarre and McLane handled that aspect really well, which is inspirational. I learned a lot from this session and really admire the work those two dedicated ladies did saving the amazing organisation known as LIVESTONG.