So Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship rose from rags to riches kicking the mining community in the family jewels. In every case study and textbook on crisis management and crisis communication, values are the compass that guide individuals, governments and corporations through the most trying circumstances.
Massey Energy and Blankship’s values? Money and power, and if there’s a ring of truth to the cascading revelations on safety violations and the wielding of political influence, we’re witnesses to what could be the most shocking view of corporate greed. This could make Enron look like a hiccup.
Twenty-nine coal miners died in the April 5 mine explosion in West Virginia, and Blankenship’s communication strategy is ignorance – void of action and commitment for the victims, their families and the community. “It’s natural that the enemies of coal would view Massey as the primary enemy . . . I think that I’ve proven that we run safer coal mines — you know, most of the time — and accidents sometimes happen. We’ve got to figure out what happened here,” he said, according to Associated Press.
Human instinct puts us all in a defensive position when faced with potential blame, but smart and careful thinking of our impact on others makes us realize compassion is critical in the worst of times. Rather than displace blame on “enemies,” or ridiculously state Massey sometimes runs safe mining operations, Blankenship’s better approach would have been to focus on the tragedy, its impact on employees, their families and the mining community, and an investment (whether intellectual, financial or both) in working with federal regulators in determining the cause of the accident and ensuring the mitigation of something like this happening again.
If Blankenship were smart enough to rise to the top of the mining industry, he’d be wiser to do a little homework on best practices in crisis management and communication. Here’s Johnson & Johnson’s, which has been in the textbooks for decades and will be for decades more.
This is when true colors come out, and right now Massey and Blankenship’s is green – everyone else, no more than the victims’ families and the mining community, is seeing red.