I follow the news like others, looking for crises to comment on. I haven’t blogged about Penn State’s problems, just because, well, everyone else was and the lessons seem so obvious. But, perhaps an even more obvious lesson is that these important lessons bear repeating because some just don’t seem to be learning very easily.
The obvious lesson is, if you know something is going to bite you in the rear end, don’t keep your rear pointing in the same direction. Turn around and face the problem head on.
The absolutely amazing thing about Penn State is that this was such an obvious “smoldering” crisis. And it was smoldering in large part because they did nothing about it. Herman Cain was a bit of fresh air in the primary race in part because it was just kind of intriguing to consider the possibility of two smart African-Americans facing off for the presidency. But, did not Mr. Cain and his campaign have any idea that these issues would come up in the race? I have no idea the legitimacy but the mere fact that allegations were raised and settlements paid in the past meant that it was 99.99% certain to become an issue. Democratic machine or no Democratic machine, this is politics today and such secrets are all but impossible to keep.
So, if Penn State knew for a long time about the allegations and the explosive nature of them and did nothing about it, how can intelligent leaders do such a thing? And Cain, did he not think or consider that he may want to be the one to bring the allegations, which he absolutely claims to be false, to the public’s attention? Hope might be a good campaign slogan, but it sucks as a crisis communication strategy.
It’s well documented that the vast majority of crises are “smoldering.” There is time to prepare. More important today, in an age when secrets are all but impossible and are always tainted with coverup, the way of dealing with bad news is to be the first to tell it.
I’m guessing there are an awful lot of future political candidates, members of boards, and senior leaders of large organizations who look at these two events with great discomfort. They know what they need to do, but dread the consequences. So, they continue to hope.
Good luck to you.