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Please read Chapters 1-3 in our course text, W. Timothy Coombs’ Ongoing Crisis Communication: Planning, Managing and Responding. The author provides a relatively brief overview of the ways organizational leaders or communication professionals should view crises, basic stages of crises, factors that influence or perpetuate and intensify crises, proactive management functions that relate to crisis management, some fundamentals about the ‘crisis prevention process,’ and other important crisis communication concepts. Once you have completed reading these chapters, consider how the information they contain and what you’ve learned applies to the following. In the recently released Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2021, the United States (U.S.) was cited for “human rights failings” and the “disproportionate impact of COVID-19” on all people of color, not just black Americans. The Human Rights Watch (2021) states, Racial discrimination is a serious human rights problem in the United States that intersects with all of the US domestic issues covered by Human Rights Watch—from over-incarceration of Black and Latinx people fueled by the disproportionately harsh sentences meted out for all categories of crime, including violent offenses, to the failed War on Drugs, to prosecution and 2 bail policies that coerce people into guilty pleas, to surveillance of specific groups, such as Muslims or political activists from other ethnic or religious minorities, to immigration policies that scapegoat immigrants as criminals, or subject asylum seekers and refugees to disparate treatment based on their national origin. Human Rights Watch documents, investigates, and analyzes human rights abuses involving racial discrimination in “purpose or effect,” meaning violations that result in racial disparities even without intent to discriminate, and we advocate for the US to meet its international human rights obligation to end all forms of racial discrimination (para. 1). One explosive example of a human rights failing happened in May 2020, when after being arrested for passing counterfeit money, George Floyd died in police custody. The release of a ‘citizen reporter’s’ personal smartphone video showing a police officer’s knee on the neck of George Floyd produced multiple outcomes, nationally and globally. In April 2021, the police officer involved was convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter and two charges of murder. In one video, a shocking number of revelations, accusations, and crisis response efforts faced by individuals and organizations such as first responders and police departments, found themselves face-to-face with charges of racial profiling, racial discrimination, and racial victimization. The George Floyd story is one of many recent similar events whereby organizations have been scrutinized in the media for their shocking, aggressive and misdirected pattern of communication. Likewise, the response to crises that arose from these events have highlighted the need for new crisis communication management protocols. While these kinds of behaviors and the crises many organizations and individuals face in association with them are far from new, the scope and attention recently brought to these issues is unprecedented. It is characterized and has been fueled by (1) the “#DefundPolice” movement, 3 which clearly and dramatically spread throughout the United States; (2) high profile accusations involving news and entertainment industry celebrities and extensive news media coverage of these stories; (3) the organized banding together of black American families who feel victimized in many of these cases and those who have been victimized in some way at some point in their lives; (4) efforts on the part of many entertainment industry celebrities to publicly rally against this kind of behavior, and the criticism of those who support or defend law enforcement officers (#BackTheBlue); (5) advocacy groups of various types tying themselves to and supporting the “BLM,” “DefundPolice,” or “BackTheBlue” movements for a variety of reasons; (6) political parties and candidates aligning themselves with the movement/issues or counter-issues, sometimes for unrelated purposes; (7) an apparent rise in cases of accusations that were later proven to be false; (8) a rise in initial denials in response to accusations that were later proven to be true; (9) businesses and other organizations reviewing and changing their human rights and racial discrimination policies in their workplaces; (10) legislative measures being introduced, considered and to some degree passed at all levels of government in response to one or all of these movements; (11) litigation and settlements related to racial issues; (12) numerous public relations events, marches, demonstrations and other activities fostered by various organizations related to these issues; and, (13) some organizations integrating the cause into their consumer advertising and promotional campaigns. Overall, the #BLM, #DefundPolice, and #BackTheBlue movements started in the United States (U.S.) and have increased awareness of racial profiling, discrimination, and victimization issues related to people of color throughout this country and worldwide. This is in part because of our current media environment and in part because these problems can be found in every culture. Some have noted that in many parts of the U.S. and the world this problem is still dismissed. For those organizations concerned with managing their 4 reputations effectively and involved in planning and responding to crises, these are trends and a cultural climate that cannot be ignored.

Part 2: Reputation Management/Crisis Communication Assignment

As you respond to this assignment, please view this from a reputation management/crisis communication point of view or as if you were a consultant hired to help an organization rather than on the basis of views or feelings you may have about these issues or particular events.

First conduct an Internet search for recent news reports and articles dealing with the happenings and issues listed above. This will further familiarize you with the nature of the current image, reputation, and crisis communication issues that all organizations may now face in some form.

Second, select ONE ORGANIZATION in the United States that has experienced a crisis involving accusations of racial profiling, racial discrimination or victimization on/with persons associated with it. It must have taken place in the past year or so. This could be a national or a local organization and may even be located in the city or town where you live. Once you have chosen your particular organization and locale, conduct another Internet search or search for other sources that focus on the organization you’ve chosen and the particular crisis communication challenges it has faced dealing with these specific issues within the past year or so. (

Third, using Chapters 1 and 2 in Coombs books as a guide, assess the ways you believe the crises they have experienced in the past year or so exemplifies the nature, stages, responses to and influences on crises as discussed in these chapters. Be sure to identify what organizations and stakeholders have been affected in the case of your organization and how such matters as the value of reputations, stakeholder activism, having broader views of crises, failure to plan, and the importance of leadership 5 are exemplified. Also, specifically exemplify how the “effects of the online world on crisis communication” has been at work. After you have responded to this, apply Chapters 3 and 4 in the Coombs book to the next part of your evaluation of this case.

Next, based specifically on what you have learned about the crises your chosen organization may have experienced, discuss specifically what the leader(s) of this organization might have done or might do to be more proactive in their crisis prevention and crisis management. Be specific in applying the Coombs readings to your particular case, even though your information about the internal workings of the organization you chose will be quite limited. Finally, based on your assessment of all communication that has taken place in the case you have chosen, what specifically do you believe has been handled ethically or unethically, using Dr. Timothy Sellnow’s video message and biblical truth as your guide?

  
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