In report after report, describing the recent issues GM has been working through, the word “debacle” has come up again and again. While most may not be able to precisely describe that term, the term carries with it an ominous “implied meaning” that Ronn Torossian says, is in many ways, worse than a more specific description.

Debacle implies both intent and ineptitude, which in itself creates a problem when trying to craft an effective PR response. Ideally, you want to be able to address a single issue at time, to fire back with positives and counter the negatives. But, when you are facing accusations of being both intentionally negligent and habitually incompetent, the Big Question becomes, “What do you go after first?”. This question becomes even more intensely problematic when you consider that both of these accusations are being leveled simultaneously.

When alleged to have made some mistakes, you can say you are aware of issues within your protocol that created negative outcomes, and that you are addressing these. Then, you can move on, having delivered a rational response to revealed mistakes. Or, if you are dealing with systematic flaws which make you appear inept, one can respond by assuring consumers that these flaws have been addressed in the most comprehensive possible way.

However, if the accusations and allegations are both specific and system-wide, the PR question becomes one of priorities. No matter which you choose, there will be vociferous critics. Therefore, your PR response must be both actively engaged in resolving the first issue while also prepared to manage the negative response from those who believe you should have addressed the other issues first. Ignoring one issue and addressing the other won’t help because it allows someone else to control that aspect of the media conversation.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.