The Shit Hit the Fan

Sys Christina Mehlsen Vestergaard - Denmark

Sys Christina Mehlsen Vestergaard experienced Journalist with a demonstrated history of working in the research and higher education industry. Skilled in Crisis Communications, Journalism, Media Relations, Corporate Communications and Magazine production. 

Session introduction

Crisis communication. You can read a lot of very good books on the topic, but there is nothing better than a deep, long lasting press crisis that can teach you to be good at it.

Session in-depth

A serious and interesting research story headlining in several national media unexpectedly kickstarted an avalanche of truly bad press for Aarhus University. Researchers had let an external collaboration partner and funding provider influence on a press release, and the way the results were presented was favourable for the external part. What would have been a story about new interesting research results for the public, became a story about researchers’ (too close) collaboration with external partners and whether external funding was a problem for university research.

Our researchers admitted this breach of research integrity and thought that we could close the story. We were wrong. A couple of weeks later, on the basis of the same research story new and even more profound credibility issues hit us. This time the shit really hit the fan and all of a sudden, the whole university’s trustworthiness was at stake. Why didn’t we see it coming?

This session is about what we did to avoid more shit to hit the fan and our attempts to turn the fan off. In some ways, we succeeded and in others we failed. I will share our findings from this crisis situation and together we will look into how we could have acted differently.