The tragic events at the Upper Big Branch South Mine offer a sobering lesson in crisis communication for other corporations and their top executives. Disaster can strike at any time in any industry. How would your executives respond to the victims' families and to the hordes of media assembled? Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is a disaster himself. Watch Diane Sawyer's interview with him (April 6) and see if you don't agree, he comes off as uncaring, defensive and unprepared for a network interview. With a disaster of this magnitude, it isn't easy to be the company's face. But, it comes with the position. Earlier in the ABC newscast, we saw Blankenship in 2008 trying to avoid the media; holding his hand up to block a camera and offering a threat. It may not be fair to drag up this old footage, but it is not surprising.
Today ABC is reporting that Blankenship is suggesting the miners may be to blame for the explosion. I cannot think of a worse thing to say in the midst of this tragedy. It's too early to say for sure who/what is responsible. Blaming the victims is never a good idea. There are ways for executives to protect the company's position and still show real compassion.