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Owning, Fixing and Talking About Your Crisis

It is hard to fix a crisis you don't own.

It is hard to fix a crisis you don't own.

"Failing to own a crisis is like walking away from an opportunity to show your character, resiliency and values," CFM President Gary Conkling advised a group of water agency officials. "You will be choosing a road other than the road to redemption."

Conkling was invited to be the keynote speaker at a meeting of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of American Waterworks Association. The meeting was centered on strategic communications by water agencies. The title of his talk was "Owning, Fixing and Talking About Your Crisis." "I honestly believe crisis response is that simple," Conkling said. "Unfortunately, it isn't that easy."

A leading crisis communications counselor, Conkling said it is hard to "fix a crisis you don't own." "An insufficient apology or an evasive explanation won't put a crisis to rest," he explained.

Owning a crisis involves acknowledging what happened, expressing an appropriate emotion, apologizing and providing relevant detail about why it happened and why it won't happen again, Conkling said. "Owning a crisis doesn't involve saying you have everything under control, telling people not to worry or urging people to trust you."

"By definition, a crisis means events are out of control," he said. "You can't stop people from worrying. Your words don't elicit trust. Only actions can do that." 

Fixing a crisis relies on taking "demonstrable steps that show you own the crisis and are willing to deal with the root cause of the crisis." 

Talking about your crisis response "is easier when you have something to say," Conkling said. 

Sometimes it is smart, he said, to talk with stakeholders or neighbors before a crisis occurs. "People respect you for telling them what could happen," Conkling said. "The absence of an incident actually reinforces your trustworthiness. They assume the potential problem you discussed with them is being managed well." 

"A crisis may uncover something you wished would have stayed hidden," he said. "But your crisis response can demonstrate your openness to owning a potential problem and addressing it responsibly."

Gary Conkling Crisis Communications

If you are interested in having Gary Conkling speak to your organization about Crisis Communications, you can contact him here. For more Crisis Communications advice from Gary Conkling, visit the CFM Crisis Ebook.

CFM Staffer Plays Games

As social beings, we like to spend time with our peers. Kids with special needs are no different, yet in Salem their opportunities are limited by access, acceptance and safety issues. This can cause a feeling of isolation not only for the kids but their families as well. 

This was the motivating factor for Ellen Miller, CFM public affairs associate, to start a Game Club in Salem when a parent of a girl with autism brought up the idea in 2010.

Modeled after the Portland Asperger’s Network Teen Game Club, the Salem Game Club offers all kids with special needs an opportunity to have fun with their peers and a networking opportunity for their parents.

Kids play several gaming systems, along with board and card games, and enjoy the traditional chips and tootsie pops together.

Over the last four years, Ellen has enjoyed getting to know the kids and seeing their friendships grow. She also has seen the benefits for the parents. Parents share information with one another, from doctors to dietary restrictions. Parents often express how grateful they are to have their kids excited to get out of the house and to have something to look forward to each month.

The club meets every month at the IKE Box in Salem on the last Friday from 6 to 8:30 p.m., except for November and December due to the holidays.

The event is free and families can stop by at anytime during the night. Kids are required to sign in and parents are required to stay on the premises. IKE Box offers comfortable places for parents to relax, with free Wi-Fi and a coffee bar.

CFM Donates Books to Encourage Reading in Ethiopia

CFM has donated more than 80 books to a school located in Debark, Ethiopia. The donation will help encourage students to develop a love of reading.

Several CFM staff members selected books they or their children love to be part of the donation. “Some of the books I chose were my favorite books as a child, my son's favorites and adult authors I love that also write children's books,” said CFM Bookkeeper Beverly Melven. “Growing up poor, the library was my favorite place to be, and I'm thrilled that we are helping other children grow up with books as their friends.”

CFM purchased from Better World Books, a website that sells books to help fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world. For each book purchased through the site, Better World Books donates another book to an organization promoting literacy. The majority of books CFM purchased were also used, which helps books get to people in need rather than in landfills. Many of the books CFM purchased promote self-esteem for women and girls, environmental responsibility or feature people with disabilities.

The book drive was organized by Peace Corps Volunteer Mellissa Chisolm, who took to Facebook asking her friends and family to donate books. “Their school libraries are mostly filled with big, boring, reference books,” wrote Chisolm, “I would love to get some new exciting, easy, fun books to add to their collection.”

“I began by personally supporting the project because it seemed like such a simple way to make a difference,” said CFM Digital Strategist Hannah Smith. “I was so proud when CFM also decided to support the project in such a big way.”

Upon learning of CFM’s donation, Chisolm said: “I will be forever grateful to CFM for helping out the children in my town. It is wonderful knowing that there are people and companies that support literacy programs around the world. I am amazed at their generosity and feel extremely lucky for all of the support.”

Those interested in purchasing additional books for donation should contact Hannah Smith through the CFM website.

“CFM In The Community” Feature Launched

CFM is supporting the upcoming Portland Piano International Festival July 12-17, one of several ways the firm involves itself in key community events.Take a peak at CFM’s updated home page. You’ll notice two new features.

We are introducing CFM In The Community, which will display the latest examples of how we are involved in key civic events, such as supporting for the Portland Piano International's Summer Festival on July 12-17.

“Community” also features CFM’s sponsorship of Zoolala (July 16), the annual fundraiser for the Oregon Zoo Foundation, where CFM Partner Dan Jarman serves as board chair, as well as CFM Senior Public Affairs Associate Elizabeth Slater’s volunteer mentoring efforts.

Being engaged and active members of our community is a core value shared by CFM staff members. Since its earliest days, the firm has supported important community groups and causes and encouraged partners and staff to volunteer.

The second new feature about our role in the community is “Our Legacy,” a brief slideshow about CFM’s accomplishments during the past two decades. The show mention’s CFM’s involvement with Metro’s first effort to create the green spaces program, helping school districts fund facilities and working on historic preservation programs, to name a few.

Link: Portland Piano International 

Eiland Evaluates UO PR Student Portfolios

CFM Partner Tom Eiland and University of Oregon professor Kelli Mathews and visiting professor Donna Davis huddle before the student portfolio evaluation in Portland, Oregon at the Turnbull Center.Public relations students about to graduate from the University of Oregon appear to be prepared for their first professional, entry-level experience, says Tom Eiland, a partner at CFM Strategic Communications, who evaluated work portfolios created by seniors from UO’s School of Journalism and Communications.

“The work was impressive, showing solid writing and strong public relations skills,” noted Eiland, one of 20 Portland-area public relations and marketing professionals to review the work product of 29 Oregon students. Student portfolios were assessed on a variety of characteristics ranging from professional appearance to effective use of traditional and social media tools.

Eiland, who has 30 years of marketing and communications experience, says, “The purpose of the session was to help students organize and present their portfolio in ways that highlight their individual skills, giving them the best opportunity for getting hired after graduation.”

CFM Makes 100 Best list for 8th Time

For the seventh straight time and eighth year overall, CFM has been listed as one of the 100 Best Employers to work for in Oregon. The firm placed 20th in the small business category of Oregon Business magazine’s annual ranking.

Making the 2011 list is a more meaningful experience, says CFM President Gary Conkling. “The last year has been a challenge for many companies, including ours."

"That makes this recognition all the more significant and gratifying,” Conkling adds. “We have worked hard to retain a healthy workplace culture despite hard economic times."

The Best Employer rankings are based on confidential employee surveys and a benefits report that is completed by each company. More than 190,000 employees of Oregon companies have voluntarily completed the annual survey during the past eight years, the magazine notes.

The aim of the 100 Best Employers project is to recognize and celebrate Oregon companies for their commitment to creating great places for their employees.