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University of Colorado''s Outgoing Crisis Communications Counsel Has Loose Lips

A story in the July 27th edition of the Rocky Mountain News featured Ray Gomez, part of the University of Colorado''s crisis communications response team committing a cardinal sin of crisis communications: blabbing about what went on behind the scenes and suggesting that the organization remains in a state of turmoil.

The story written by Kevin Vaughan was about Gomez''s decision to resign, presumably to rejoin his family in Southern California. However, Gomez left nothing to the imagination about the University''s ongoing struggles to emerge from two years of intense scrutiny.

"It was what I thought it would be - I thought it would be chaotic, and I thought it would be political, and I thought it would be tumultuous, and it has been all of those things," Gomez told the Rocky Mountain News. "I knew what I was getting into when I came here. It was an organization in the throes of the crisis." 

News flash for Gomez and all other crisis communications consultants: don''t contribute to the crisis from which your client is trying to recover! Stick to the key messages emphasizing the University''s scholastic achievements, Nobel prize winners and ties with NASA. Focus on how proud you are about what has been accomplished and that you fully expect that the transition to a new administration will be seamless and it will help to enhance the organization''s reputation.

But don''t remind everyone what a mess you walked into. And certainly don''t suggest that the organization remains in turmoil to this day. 

Crisis communications counselors should have just one thing to say when asked about the work they''ve done: the key message. What was it like when you were first called in? Answer: the key message. Do you think the money spent on your services was a waste? Answer: the key message.

Stay on message, for goodness sake!

Gomez''s resignation comes just a week before former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown assumes the presidency at CU. Brown is expected to make sweeping changes in the CU administration. While Gomez did not attribute his decision to Brown''s arrival, he acknowledged that the uncertainty that comes with a new president''s arrival, and the possibility that Brown would be succeeded by someone else within a year, played a role in his decision. 

"In a way it is, and I think part of the concern that I had was that we would have a change in presidency in a week, and that we would have another change in presidency at some point after that," Gomez said. 

Ugh. Imagine having this guy as your crisis communications counselor

Gomez and Mike Hesse, a former congressional aide, came to the university in December as it was trying to fight its way out of a year of scandal stemming from a Dec. 7, 2001, party attended by football players and recruits. Three women later alleged they were sexually assaulted either at or after the party and sued the university. Although one lawsuit was later dropped and the combined case involving the other two was dismissed, CU continued to grapple with questions about its policies and about its spending.

And now the school is grappling with the fall-out from their loose-lipped public relations consultant.
Dan Keeney
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Author: Dan Keeney
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