Jim Horton's been running a series of dispatches chronicling his work with a client in crisis mode. A little snippet in Fortune only reinforces his observations.
There is a quiet period before a bad story appears. In that time, clients work to prevent the story from happening. (They can't). They ask an agency to tell them what to do. (The agency tries to prepare them for the worst.) Eventually the story comes and expectancy is rewarded by the force of an awful report. By then, however, the client and the agency will have feared the worst, and the story might not seem as bad as it is. But, it might be worse, and it is hard to tell until feedback comes from customers, employees and others. (Here, and other days)
Fortune ran a 6000+ word piece on executive suite troubles at Coca-Cola this week, and it is obvious that the PR staff knew the article was coming.
How obvious? In discussing Douglas Daft, who "would come to be called Coke's 'accidental CEO,'" the reporter notes an exchange with the PR staff:
(A company spokeswoman said Daft wouldn't be made available for interviews because "you have to understand, we're trying to do as little damage as possible. We're trying not to blow the place up.")