To start 2012 right heres a book excerpt from “For Immediate Release”, the new book by Ronn Torossian.  Owing a crisis PR agency, I found this to be a major success in the world of crisis PR.

Hit the Books and Get Rid of the Problem

Here’s a sordid story that you’ve probably not heard about on CNN or Fox News. Philip H. Brown, a tenured economics professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, resigned from
the school after the institution announced it was either that or he’d be fired because he’d violated students’ privacy. What was the violation? Oh, it’s a doozy—perfect for tabloid  journalism.

On a trip to China in 2011, Brown placed a webcam in the bathrooms his female students would be using. As they traveled from province to province, the professor had apparently enlisted an unwitting student to place a first-aid kit containing a hidden webcam in the bathrooms.

The professor’s spying was uncovered when one of his students discovered a photo of her unclad bottom in the trash bin of Brown’s laptop, a computer that all students on the trip shared with their teacher. She had been searching the computer’s hard drive for a document she had inadvertently deleted. Colby College president William Adams wrote to students
and employees in late January that Brown had resigned after college officials told him they were prepared to fire him. Adams didn’t wait until Brown returned from the trip; he called him in China a day after receiving a complaint about the photos and verifying the claim was true. Adams also admitted that the matter had prompted an investigation by law enforcement, and that the college was cooperating fully with police.

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In his letter to students and faculty, Adams also stated that the well-being of students was the college’s “utmost priority” and that “we do not and will not tolerate behavior that is antithetical to the fundamental values of our community. We take this matter very seriously. We took prompt action to address it, and we will continue to support the affected students in ways that are respectful of their privacy.”

Adams acted swiftly to reassure students, cooperated with the police investigation, and most important of all, got rid of the professor despite the fact that he had tenure, which allowed
the story to stay local and within the academic community. It went away fairly quickly and became a story of a perverted professor, rather than a problem with the university. School
officials rightfully distanced themselves from the conflict and made the issue about Brown.

Had the college dithered, the story would have had legs—lots of them. The college’s actions would have aroused suspicion and interest from outside journalists, and what has remained a shortlived local story might have become a national story, as well as the butt of the obligatory late-night jokes. It could have cost the college significant fund-raising dollars and state and federal grant money, and resulted in diminished enrollment. It would have affected not only Colby College’s reputation but also the personal reputation of its president; scandal tends to rub off on the people surrounding it. And it would have, had he not done the right thing.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5W Public Relations

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.