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May 7, 2014
Duke's CEO Should Have Known Better About Crisis PR
 
Geez, this isn't the way to do crisis communication and Duke Energy Corp., of all the utilities, ought to know that. When I was in utility public relations years ago, Duke was the archetype of all things right and good in power generation. But today, The Wall Street Journal has a story about how Lynn Good, Duke's new CEO, "made virtually no public appearances in the weeks following the spill (of 30,000 tons of coal ash into a North Carolina river in February) "and Duke continued to run ads touting the company's reliability while videos on television and the Web showed gray sludge gushing into the Dan River."

Truly, that's no way to do crisis communication, and if this hideaway option takes hold, the nation is that much further from a responsible information flow.  "If you put yourself in my shoes, there was never a moment where there was a question abiut, 'Is she absent, is she not engaged, is she not out front?" But whoever was Duke's spokesperson after the coal ash discharge doesn't count for the CEO making a timely public accounting. That goes with the title and, again, Duke should know that.

Duke issued press releases and made Twitter updates after the February spill, but a due crisis communication process calls for the CEO being out front, early on, on a dire situation. People need to be able to assess who is in charge, or not.    

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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