University of Notre Dame and Manti Te’o: A Refresher in Crisis Comm

January 18, 2013 1:14 pm Published by

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It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Notre Dame Football. As an avid fan, I’m still licking my wounds from the 42-14 loss last week. Not to mention the fact that I’ll be hearing ‘Roll Tide’ for the next year. However, the program has taken another hit in the form of an Internet hoax. Deadspin, a sports blog, reported on Wednesday, January 16th that star linebacker, Manti Te’o’s girlfriend was not only not dead, but she also never existed. Te’o credits her with being the source of his inspiration for good work ethic and earning him the Heisman trophy nomination. Notre Dame is on the verge of PR crisis and I think that this is as good a time as any to have a refresher on the basic principles of crisis communications.

  1. Be transparent. The more information the organization provides the better. People will see them as a trusted source of information. The University football program released this statement on their Facebook page, following the Deadspin report.
  2. Assume the worst. The rule of thumb is that anything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Prepare for anything and everything.
  3. Move fast. As with all news, this traveled fast. Social media erupted with the news of Te’o’s ‘fake’ girlfriend. The organization needs to move just as fast. Deadspin released their article at 4:10 p.m. At around 8 p.m. that same night. Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Sawrbrick held a press conference to answer questions about how much the University knew.
  4. Be accurate. News that travels fast can quickly turn into rumors and false stories, similar to the telephone game we all used to play. Be clear and accurate about the facts.
  5. Apologize.  If the organization is at fault an apology should be issued. Make sure that the organization comes across as sincere in their apology.

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Whether or not Te’o was a part of the hoax is still to be determined, as is just how much the University knew about the hoax. I’ll certainly be staying tuned as more unfolds.

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