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February 9, 2011
Golfing PR: Should Crisis Strike the Links
Can a golf course, a place to go for relaxing, socializing, and exercising, be subject to a crisis? Of course it can; any setting can. It's to the credit of Golf Course Industry magazine that it has a lengthy piece on developing a crisis communication plan for its own rolling locales. Pay heed.

The prompting for the piece, you might expect, has been the recession. Golfing revenue streams have slackened a bit, making staff and course maintenance reductions likely at many golf clubs. Even when skillfully handled, cutbacks can readily impact on the perceptions of members and their foursome guests.

"Changes must be made to survive in this economy," the article states, "and (golf course) superintendents are very good at adjusting their operations. However, with the potential for altering course conditions, it is paramount a message be crafted and communicated effectively to players."

Hence the need for a crisis communication plan, starting with "Avoid the Blame Game."  "People are more understanding if they know the issues at hand. When not informed they will come to their own conclusions and the blame game begins." So advise golfers, like anyone else, forthrightly.

That's the start of advisable communication planning for any organization, and it's good to see "the country club set" being so well-advised by an industry publication. The magazine goes on to lay out the elements of communicating the impact of economic adversity on the greens including, should it occur, the arrival of a TV news crew. They might be interested in almost anything—say, "the use of water for irrigation on a golf course."

The best time to think about a TV grilling is before it happens, as is true for so much else. Who will the spokesperson be, and what's the chain of command for approving tightly knit responses? How do you turn a potential negative into a positive?

Communication discipline like this is advisable in any setting serving the public. Golf Course Industry has performed a service in laying out crisis communication preparedness for such seemingly tranquil settings. 

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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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