A crisis can change a public relation career in an instant
By Ryan Wood
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Software developer, public relations director, marketing and communications director — Chuck Herring, now chief marketing officer and co-founder of AllSource Analysis, has been busy in his 25-year-career.
Herring graduated from the University of Northern Colorado earning a degree in journalism as well as communication, but his first job wasn’t even remotely related to either degree.
Herring’s first job was writing code for the first satellite for the company Earth Watch, known today as Digital Globe. When that satellite came crashing down after launch, the company had to downsize from 140 to 40 employees. Earth Watch dumped its public relations team and the CEO of the company noticed Herring’s background.
“At the time I was working as a software designer when the first satellite went down,” Herring said. “The CEO came by my desk and said, ‘Hey, you know how to deal with the media and write press releases right?’ I said yes and he told me that I was the new head of communications for Earth Watch.”
Herring was thrust straight into the middle of a crisis, which he was eager and ready to handle. After another satellite crashed and another company downsizing in 2003, Herring was a seasoned veteran in dealing with crisis communication.
“After the second satellite went into the ocean, I pulled out my first memo that I sent throughout the office when I became director of public relations,” Herring said. “The trick to producing good public relations work is to keep the morale up of co-workers in times of crisis.”
Earth Watch became Digital Globe when its third satellite was finally able to maintain orbit. Herring took on more responsibilities and more work as public relations director. He is proud of the work he did whether it was in-house memos or sending out releases to the media in his 12 years at Digital Globe.
When Digital Globe acquired a rival company in 2013, Herring and a few fellow co-workers were let go. The group formed a satellite analysis firm named AllSource Analysis. They serve customers in the United States and the international community.
Herring attributes his success to a fundamental belief: People expect the truth from the media and from each other.
“Aside from the typical format of a press release, (substance at top, explanation, quote and detail), hearing the truth is what people want when receiving a message,” he said. “Media contacts, employees, stockholders don’t want to be left in the dark and that shouldn’t occur. I don’t redirect them; I answer the questions asked to me without fluffing and changing the subject.”
Whether you are new to public relations or a veteran, Herring said these things are crucial to being successful:
“Develop a relationship with reporters and they will help in getting the intended message out to the readers,” Herring said. “They aren’t there to make my life harder, but neither are we. Maintaining relationships is the biggest benefit to any company regardless of being a big one like Digital Globe or us here at All Source Analysis. It’s one of the reasons we are a go-to source for CNN because of keeping in contact and not always being about business.
“Look for start-ups, they have budgets and want eager people who present themselves well and can communicate effectively. Gaining experience here will help when trying to move up to a bigger company. Opportunities and uncertainty are the name of the game in a field with a high turnover rate.”
And finally he said he makes sure all of his employees understand his last point: “Be aware, but not afraid of the media. Carry the intended message effectively and just prepare for the reaction after the message is sent out.”