What Would the NBA Commish Do? How to Manage Stress in a Crisis


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It’s been a stressful week for the NBA. The league was nearly torn asunder by racist remarks made by Los Angles Clippers owner Donald Sterling during  a private phone conversation. On Tuesday NBA Commissioner Adam Silver started the healing process after he chose to ban Sterling from the NBA for life, fine him $2.5 million and persuade the other owners to force him to sell the club.

The crisis has been neutralized by Silver’s deliberate actions and press conference statements. But it was surely touch-and-go there for a while.

Had Silver not announced that he was looking to enact the necessary measures to force a sale of the Clippers from Sterling, the Golden State Warriors reportedly informed the media that they were planning on walking off the floor after the opening tip of their nationally televised game against the Clippers Tuesday night.

Such a move would have humiliated the NBA and changed the trajectory of the crisis. But after meting out punishment that apparently met with satisfaction from the players, Silver can now wipe the beads of sweat from his forehead get on with the business of basketball.

It’s a matter of scale, of course, but surely there are plenty of communicators and PR pros who can relate to having to deal with a severe crisis (with a lot of moving parts) that could result in severe erosion of the brand or organization.

With that in mind, here are some PR tips on how to handle a crisis and make sure it doesn’t consume you, per PR News' Crisis Management Guidebook.

> Assess your job and responsibilities. Only you know what is within reason as far as being contacted in a crisis. Decide what is appropriate for you while adhering to your job guidelines.

> Determine the “crisis mode” level. Things go wrong sometimes. The trick is to diffuse the situation in an optimal amount of time with the least amount of collateral damage. Set up a “rising scale of tension.” What is the tipping point where your assistance is needed? Determine what events warrant communication or a phone call on off-time hours.

> Communicate with your employees or employer. If you determine that you need to be available during off-hours, let your co-workers or employees know when it’s okay to reach out on a weekend. Ultimately, it’s up to you to gently inform those with whom you work or do business with what your boundaries are.

> Have a checks and balances system. Make a list of people who can fill in for you at the last minute if need be. Determine which people will be able to pitch hit for you if you cannot respond to work in the appropriate manner or time frame.

Learn more about dealing with crises in PR News' Crisis Management Guidebook, Volume 7

Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1

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About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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