david_morrison_crisis-1Want to see the best response ever to a crisis currently making news around the world?

There’s a huge scandal going on in Australia over allegations that 17 members of the defense forces, including officers, were sharing explicit emails and photos that denigrate women. The kicker: this happened at a time when Australia has been actively encouraging women to join the Army.

Instead of slinking into the shadows to avoid the scandal, Australia’s Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, makes a brilliant move: He tackles the issue head-on in the amazing PSA below. In the video, he tells sexist soldiers that the Army (and the world for that matter) has changed, that sexism in any form won’t be tolerated, and, “If that doesn’t suit you, get out.”

This crisis communication move is genius. Every CEO in the world should watch and learn from it. Check it out: 

How Morrison Turns a Crisis on Its Head

Of course it's inspiring to hear someone in a position of power saying they won’t tolerate stuff like this ... but this video is also a brilliant piece of crisis communications.

“It’s an awesome job. The video is well done and [Morrison's] really credible. This guy has huge political potential,” says a crisis PR expert who watched the video and gave us an evaluation, but asked not to be named.

The reason this video is so brilliant is because Morrison is doing some things that are counterintuitive to typical crisis communication advice:

1) He addresses the issue immediately, before the charges have even been proven. 

Instead of saying, “Let’s wait until the investigation is done,” he’s commenting now, and to a certain extent he’s presuming that the charges are true. While PR and crisis communications professionals often recommend getting "in front" of the story, most wouldn't recommend creating this passionate PSA before the investigation is resolved. By addressing the issue directly and immediately before the investigation is over, Morrison is taking a huge risk for his organization -- but it pays off.

2) He’s actually drawing more attention to the scandal.

Most people outside of Australia weren’t aware of this scandal, and probably never would be if they hadn't seen this video. Now that Morrison made this amazing video and it's going viral all around the world, people who would never have known about this scandal are fully aware of it.

The first rule of crisis PR is you don’t want to over-communicate and accelerate the crisis. That’s why there’s often a tendency to downplay a scandal or dismiss it as the work of a few idiots, an isolated incident.

But Morrison isn’t doing that at all. He’s shining a spotlight on it and even elevating the issue. He’s making it about something bigger than just a few jerks sharing offensive emails. He’s making it about principles.

3) He spends a lot of time talking about positive things.

Perhaps the most brilliant thing Morrison does is one that you may not notice at first: he doesn’t spend a lot of time rehashing the exact charges or talking about what happened. He’s using the video to move past the crisis -- and reaffirm his organization's mission and values. “At least two-thirds of the video are talking about positive things. He’s talking about good stuff, about inclusion, and his values,” our crisis PR expert points out. "That's really good."

Did you find this video inspiring? What would you have done in this situation?

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Originally published Jun 14, 2013 12:52:00 PM, updated July 28 2017


Public Relations