Case Studies

9/11 Coverage 

Issue: 

Bin Laden family donations to Harvard reported during live CNN television coverage on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

 

 

Strategy

Discredit implications of a university link to terrorism and 9/11 attacks.

Tactics

*   Quickly provided details of actual gift from Bin Laden family, who had long ago disowned their terrorist sibling.

*   Assured public that fund raising process has safeguards built in. 

*   Emphasized nature of gift relating to art and architecture.

*   Researched other examples of Bin Laden family funding projects for governments, corporations and other non-profits. 

*   Worked closely with media leading public investigation to ensure that the university’s perspective was well-expressed.

*   Refocused attention of donors to fundraising efforts that enable positive improvements to society.



Swine Flu Outbreak

Issue: 

Dental School students working at a public clinic were the first local cases of the same swine flu that was causing panic across the United States.

 

 

Strategy:

Prove and protect the university’s credibility as a trusted and responsible community institution.

 

Tactics

 

*   Conceived and authored first university-wide Emergency Communications Plan used as the guide for responding to public health crises.

*   Emphasized principles of relevancy and transparency
through joint press conferences with City mayor and State and local public health officials.

*   Managed full spectrum of communications tools to keep community informed, including media access to chief medical officer, text alerts, social media, web pages, email, and push phone messaging.
 

*   Reduced internal anxieties by emphasizing that students were quarantined and publicizing extensive cleaning projects.

Radioactive Oatmeal

Issue: 

Harvard and MIT researchers fed radioactive oatmeal to special needs children during 1950’s era research.



Strategy:

Acknowledge then move story to improved contemporary research practices that ensure similar incidents do not occur today.

Tactics:

 

*  Organized joint team between universities to coordinate public response.

*   Publicly acknowledged past wrongdoings.

*   Established credibility by quickly releasing details in the context of research norms of the time.

*   Emphasized the university’s contemporary 'human subjects' safeguards and informed consent standards.

*   Provided perspective by leading reporters to established data showing radiation exposure was less than airplane flight from Boston to New York City.

 © 2012  Joe Wrinn  All Rights Reserved.

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