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Crisis PR: What Defense Contractors Can Learn From The Australian Army

When a defense contractor is hit with a public relations crisis, the best response is to be as quick, helpful and open as possible. The worst response: "no comment."


Australian Army © Commonwealth of Australia

In an excellent primer on crisis communications "3 Rules of Crisis Communications That Never Change,"  from Ragan's PR Daily, readers are reminded:

  1. Be Quick
  2. Be Helpful
  3. Be Open

In response to a PR crisis, Australia’s Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, has done just that. Brilliantly.

The Australian Army is embroiled in a scandal which alleges that 17 members of the defense forces, including officers, were sharing explicit emails and photos that denigrate women.

In a move typical of the infantryman that Morrison is, while under attack he has gone toward the sound of gunfire. Rather than slink into the shadows to avoid the scandal, Morrison has tackled the issue head-on in this amazing video.

In this video, Morrison demonstrates the 3 rules of crisis communications.

  1. Be Quick - This video was released right after news of the scandal broke. The response was proactive and obviously skipped a lengthy approval process that can paralyze some crisis communications efforts.
  2. Be Helpful - In the video, Morrison explained what happened, what the next steps are and what he plans to do to fix the problem.
  3. Be Open - Morrison does not try to put a positive spin on what is a terrible situation. That would have been a public relations disaster. Instead, he demonstrates a human side, shows emotion and conveys how genuinely upset he is.

What's also interesting is that in this video, Morrison addresses the issues, even before the allegations have been proven. This comes with some risk and many PR professionals might have counseled against this approach until "all the facts are known," but Morrison explains that the investigation is ongoing.

Additionally, Morrison outlines the invaluable contributions of women in the Australian military. Morrison's takes the opportunity to remind his "internal audience" (the Army) on what is proper behavior and what is unacceptable.

This example of crisis communications also is a reminder to defense contractors of the importance of having an established social media presence in place BEFORE a crisis hits. While there are many benefits of social media, if for no other reason, defense contractors should be established on social media in order to quickly respond to a crisis.

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

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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