Public relations (PR) is defined as "the efforts put forth by an organization to maintain its image with the public (Investorwords.com)". PR is the instrument that shapes the mind of the consumer. Credibility is established, word of mouth follows, and in the process, brand image and loyalty are being built. One very important component of public relations is successful crisis management. For most organizations, a crisis is a "series of unexpected unpleasant events that allows no time to think, organize, or plan appropriate actions" (Damico). The way in which a company handles crisis can be an indicator of its future success. This paper will discuss three examples of crisis management that caught national attention. This paper will also describe how each organization turned their disaster into a successful PR opportunity.
The first example involves a toxic mold scare and a $98 million project in Hawaii, the Hilton Hawaiian Village. In late July 2002, senior vice president and managing director of Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa, Peter Schall, announced the complete shutdown of the hotel's Kalia Tower after investigations turned up mold in many of the hotel's 450 guestrooms (Jefferson). According to recent reports, employees discovered black discolorations on ceilings and walls in early June 2002, and after further intensive investigation, Hilton decided to go public with the news in July of the same year (Jefferson). While some reports may claim Hilton withheld the truth about exactly when the toxic mold was discovered, experts agree that this is a lesson from which all businesses can benefit (Jefferson).
Hilton appropriately displayed outward recognition and concern for their guests and employees when they confirmed reports of the toxic mold, according to experts. According to Peter Schall, "We went forward because there is a concern for our employees and our guests,