Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Case Study: Ethics Crisis Shuts Down Power Company

Many government agencies have a crisis communications plan in place. Memphis, Light, Gas and Water certainly had one. Well, one that covered things like disasters, gas leaks or pandemics. They didn't have one, though, that covered an ethics crisis.

When word broke that a city councilman had used $16,000 worth of utility services and didn't have to pay a bill, MLGW found itself in the middle of a crisis they had not anticipated. Glen Thomas, Communications and Public Relations Supervisor, said the backlash from the public and the media was immediate.

Thomas shared his review of how he and his company reacted to that crisis, including revealing the missteps that happened along the way. In hindsight, he said, those mistakes included:
  • not having a crisis communications plan in place that covered ethical issues;
  • not reviewing all documents that were publicly distributed so they could anticipate media responses; and
  • being too slow on the first day of media coverage.
Since then, MLGW has established new leadership, restructured the company, revised its credit policies, implemented new customer service programs, increased internal and external communications and not have greater transparency.

Does your crisis communications plan have an ethics component? Are there other examples that demonstrate a need for such a plan? If you were in Albuquerque, what other lessons did you take away from the presentation?

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