By Alexia Castillo
Students gathered in for a session to listen to Myra Borshoff, APR and founder of Borfshoff, and Jen Dial, Global communications manager of Eli Lilly and Company.
Borshoff does public relations work and advertising for clients. Eli Lilly and Company is a global pharmaceutical company that is headquartered in downtown Indianapolis.
Myra has worked with the Indianapolis Colts, St. Francis Hospital and Eli Lilly and Company. She began her career by starting up her own agency in 1984, representing a law firm in Indianapolis. She spoke about a client that pushed her into wanting to get into crisis communications.
Myra said, “One day I received a phone call at 6 a.m. about one of the senior partners at a law firm being killed by a male prostitute. I felt challenged and was interested in that type of communication by how unexpected all this can be.”
Myra’s definition of a crisis is when it disrupts the organization to the extent that does not allow them to proceed through their normal work duties. It is something that keeps the CEO awake at night.
Her advice on what to do in a crisis as a PR professional: Stay calm, do not get caught up in drama and get the facts. It is vital to do search for the company if there have been any other incidents in which they have been previously involved and make sure there is an official spokesperson that is prepared to be transparent while speaking to the media.
Myra said, “Don’t try to divert attention to someone else in crisis, approach the issue with a statement immediately, otherwise it will backfire and another story will pop up.”
When talking about employees, she said you, as the insider, are expected to know what’s going on at all times. You need to have an offside destination for the media to come depending on how severe the crisis is.
Jen Dial has had a different take on crisis communication. She said when it comes to dealing with patients and the media, you need to keep patients privacy in mind when sharing their status, but also needing to be quick to address the public.
Jen said, “The first time you say no comment to the media, the media will stick around longer.”
It is important to determine when the appropriate time to say nothing, saying something doesn’t always correct the problem efficiently.
Jen has three A’s she lives by in regards to crisis communication: Acknowledge the problem right away, apologize to the public and take action.
The way one reacts to a crisis is important because the spokesperson is speaking on behalf of an organization and company. Dial and Borshoff served as mentors for PR students during this session on how to react when a crisis hits.
Alexia Castillo is a junior communication studies major at Kent State. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.