Crisis Communications in the Digital Age with Bill Salvin

Bill SalvinLessons Learned from the Front Lines of the BP Oil Spill and Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Join us for an engaging lunchtime session on crisis communications with Bill Salvin, President & Founder of Signal Bridge Communications. Bill will share applicable media training and crisis communications tips from the front lines of recent disasters, including the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill and 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. Bill was a member of the core crisis communications team during both media maelstroms and can offer valuable lessons learned in message development, executive spokesperson training, media engagement and more -- including fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

Bill is an accomplished media and crisis communications trainer with more than two decades of experience in communications training, corporate public relations, journalism and military public affairs. He has extensive experience working with oil, aviation/aerospace, defense, energy, high-tech and healthcare industries and has conducted hundreds of media training programs for companies and organizations such as BP, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Chevron, and more.  He has led these courses across six continents and prepared senior executives for difficult interviews with CNN, Dateline NBC, 20/20, The Wall Street Journal, and many more.

Bill is a Commander in the United States Naval Reserve -- soon to be Captain -- and serves as director of a Naval Reserve unit that supports the United States Seventh Fleet. In his capacity as a Navy and military spokesman, Bill has been interviewed by The New York Times, CNN, Reuters, AP, BBC, Time, USA Today and many others. Bill’s other Navy assignments have taken him to Japan, the Pentagon during Desert Storm, Guantanamo Bay, Australia, Sarajevo, Italy, Hawaii and aboard the aircraft carriers USS Independence and USS Saratoga.

WHEN: Monday, June 24 11:30 -1 p.m.

WHERE: Davenport University, Downtown Center (45 Ottawa) Parking is available in the garage across the street or at meters

PRICE: Member $25.00 | Non-Member $35.00 | Student $20.00 

Click here to RSVP

Please note: A $5 surcharge will be added for day-of-event registration/walk-ins.

[RECAP] Navy Crisis Communications

By Ashley Curd, senior at Grand Valley State University On Wednesday, March 20th, aimWest joined with WMPRSA to host Lt. Matthew Allen, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Navy.  Lt. Allen has been in the Navy for the past 17 years, during his service he has spent time in the Middle East, received his APR accreditation and is currently working at the Navy news desk in Washington D.C.

Lt. Allen provided an overview of the Navy’s duties and all they do for not only the U.S., but also the rest of the world.  He also discussed Navy crisis communication and provided  examples of how they have used their PR efforts to manage four difficult situations within the last year.

The first crisis Lt. Allen spoke about was when the USS Guardian landed on a protected reef located off the coast of the Philippines in January.  The electronic maps that were provided to the Navy showed the reef located 7 miles from where it actually was, causing the ship to ground the reef.  The Navy’s communication efforts about the event were delayed and led to a misunderstanding of the situation among the Philippine citizens causing them to protest outside the U.S. Embassy.  Ultimately, the Navy made the decision to dismantle the ship in the hopes that they could minimize the damage to the reef by doing so.

The next crisis discussed was when a F-18 jet belonging to the Navy had both of it’s engines fail and it crashed into an apartment complex in Virginia Beach.  Thankfully, none of the residents of the complex were injured and the pilots were able to eject themselves from the aircraft and survived as well.  After the crash the Navy focused on putting the community first, which ultimately allowed them to maintain their relationship with the local population.

The third crisis discussed was the shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre during the screening of the Batman movie this past summer.  When speaking to the media about the tragic event, it was the goal of the Navy to take the focus off the killer and bring it back to the victims, including one of the Navy’s own, Petty Officer John Larimer, who died trying to protect his date.

The final topic discussed was Sequestration and the role it has played in the Navy’s budget cuts, which led to the delayed deployment of the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman.  Both crew members of the Truman as well as their families have been affected and according to Lt. Allen, the Navy is currently in internal communication crisis mode.

Overall, Lt. Allen said that his role as a Public Affairs Officer is to be a bridge to get both the brand and sacrifice of the Navy’s sailors into public knowledge.

Crisis Management in Today’s Internet World - June 21, 2012

wmprsaprogramcrisiscomminternetage06-21-12_062 (Medium) On June 21, 2012, WMPRSA hosted Dan Spaulding, APR, a principal with SeyferthPR for the program "Crisis Management in Today's Internet World."


Spaulding has nearly 25 years counseling clients in the development of media and long-term public relations strategies to address issues and crises as well as prior experience as a television news director and journalism faculty member.

Spaulding has seen plenty of change over the course of his career, which has allowed him to distill crisis communications to some important key points that stand the test of time:

  • Do your crisis planning now - there won't be time when a crisis hits.
  • Don't overreact: the last thing you want to do is prolong the crisis. Take conversations offline if possible.
  • Don't forget to document things as they happen: documentation is an important and oft-forgotten part of handling a crisis.

"Toyota in Crisis" March 2011 Program Recap

WMPRSA March 2011 Program: Toyota in Crisis WMPRSA March Program Recap: Toyota in Crisis (3/17/11) How communications helped an automaker transition from recalls to recovery

In early 2010, Curt McAllister, Midwest public relations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., found himself in the midst of one of the largest automobile recall crises in history. With over 8 million vehicles recalled globally, the Toyota brand began to dissolve as its reputation was slandered across media outlets worldwide.

WMPRSA March 2011 Program: Toyota in Crisis

The crisis was kick-started in the fall of 2009 when a family died in a Toyota rental car in California. The accident was caused by a thick floor mat, which was wedged underneath the gas pedal. The company recalled the floor mats, thinking they had solved the initial problem. But the floor mats were only the beginning. On January 21, 2010, nearly 2.3 million vehicles were recalled for “sticky pedals” – an issue that had yet to be resolved by Toyota. Five days later Toyota stopped production and, on Jan. 29, announced that they had found a solution. This was eight days filled with negative media coverage for the brand, plummeting Toyota’s reputation as an industry leader in merely days.

These eight days were followed by nearly 12 months of vehicle recalls, government fines and negative media attention nationwide. Toyota became a popular target for parody advertisements, cartoons and late night television, many using the recently coined term “runaway Toyota.” Social media played a large role in the spread of negative views of the brand with nearly 72,000 tweets and 3 million YouTube videos posted. Despite the fact that the company was continuing to unveil new models, the focus remained on the recalls and the brands falling reputation.

Toyota turned back to the basics and used communications to help them transition into recovery. Throughout the crisis, the company remained honest and transparent while always taking responsibility without blaming others or pointing fingers. They wanted the world to rediscover the Toyota way and began to rebuild the brand one customer at a time. Again, it was social media that played a large role in this recovery. The website was launched, allowing visitors to view all releases, photos and video submitted by the company. Toyota also distributed an e-newsletter titled Fast Facts and held webinars designed to keep media and consumers up to date on the company. Toyota remained proactive in promoting their key messages and also began to call out questionable communicators and defending themselves by debunking outrageous public claims.

Toyota took their message on the road through a 21 city tour in the U.S. and another media tour at their plants in Japan. Regular media updates helped to control news coverage and discussions with local dealers helped to sway any further issues that had surfaced. McAllister provided Midwest support in what he described as a “barnstorming tour.” The public relations manager spent nine weeks travelling across the Midwest speaking to dealers, buyers and media at eight different auto shows.

The Toyota recall crisis is now considered to be history, allowing the brand to focus on its product. But it seems that product was never an issue for the company. Although sales were flat, Toyota remained the number 1 retail brand in the U.S. in 2010. In February 2011, a 10 month study deemed Toyota’s electronics to be flawless and sparked a 42 percent increase in sales.


  • Honesty and transparency are paramount for all companies, particularly those engaged in a crisis.
  • Aspire to communicate to all internal and external audiences in a similarly timely fashion. Nothing is more aggravating to an employee/associate than learning about all company developments via media reports.
  • Incorporate Social Media communications into overall mass media strategies and tactics. Start seeing SM-minded individuals as “citizen journalists,” – absorbers and disseminators of information.
  • Don’t neglect your responsibility as a communicator to correct erroneous media reports and misinformed journalists. It’s OK to tell a reporter he or she is wrong if you have solid information and a non-threatening demeanor.
  • If you agree to a television or live radio interview, remember that everything is fair game. The interview isn’t over till the camera crew rounds the corner and/or the phone call ends with the radio station.
  • When a member of the media contacts you to comment on the handling of a crisis, ask yourself this simple question: Am I doing this interview for me (increase my/company’s brand standing) or to convey a fair assessment of the situation? If you see this as a greater opportunity for YOU than the PR profession, at large, you should probably decline the opportunity.