Smart Crisis Management | Getting Ahead of the Story

Congratulations are in order for the County of San Bernardino government leadership. Yes, you read that right.

The San Bernardino County government apparatus may have been battered and bruised in the last decade or so, but some smart leadership has emerged and we would like to recognize that here.

The most recent example involves the beat down of a criminal by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies, which was caught by an overhead news camera from an NBC 4 helicopter. This beating was so egregious that it led to national news and threatened to deliver a beating of its own (to the already damaged image of San Bernardino).

But thanks to some quick action, the brand damage will be lessened. The county has followed the key tenet of Crisis Communications 101 and the primary objective of all crisis communications: Get ahead of the news cycle in order to bring an end to the news coverage. By getting the story over with and getting it out of the news cycle, the county was able to stop the reputation damage at its source. In public relations, we call it “stop the bleeding.”

So, how did the county get ahead of the story? A quick payoff of $650,000 to the beaten criminal (without admitting any wrongdoing on the part of the county or the sheriff’s department) will stop the sure-to-be-embarrassing civil action that would have certainly been undertaken by the “victim.” We also believe kudos are in order to whoever was managing PR for the beaten man, because the news coverage they got by letting him sit for an interview (wherein he explained how the cops had beaten him previously and that is why he ran from them) probably helped the county see it was smart to settle quickly – and, to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, to “show him the money.” This is smart crisis management we can get behind.