There are possibly many learnings from the heavily armed gunman attacked an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater early Friday, that terrified audiences, killed 12 and wounded 38... and of course the number one priority is that thoughts and prayers go out to all who were there or are effected by this senseless killing.

And now a moment to think how this will effect good old commerce.  Financially speaking, Warner Bros have the most to loose.  They are the power behind the movie - The Dark Knight Rises - the Batman midnight premier where the shooting occurred. On Friday mid morning, the radio stations are full of chatter from understandably concerned mothers who now are not going to let their families go and see the movie.  Why?  Irrational fear of a copycat attack?  A realization that life is fragile and anything could happen?  A need to keep children away from violence? 

It doesn't matter. What is going to be important to Warner Bros is that their ticket sales - at the most important opening weekend in their domestic market - is going to be adversely effected.  By early next week we'll know by how many millions of dollars.

This goes back to advice we give every crisis communication client.  It doesn't matter how awesome you are as an organization - you will get effected by a real crisis that will hit your bottom line.  Just think about the bad luck Warner Bros have just been handed.  They created a script, developed it into a screenplay, got the best talent to act, direct & produce it, nailed the marketing, perfected a global distribution model, worked with partners to create cross promotions and add on sales - no doubt had excellent legal and accounting teams around this project.  In short - they did everything right.  They invested some $250 million in this production.  Then something clearly out of their control will not only add more costs (they have already announced changes to their marketing and launch distribution), but will cost millions.  Not to mention this movie (not unlike others in this series) now has a tragic story behind it.

At the time of this post, there is no apparent crisis communication from Warner Bros on their main site, on the site of The Dark Knight Rises or the associated Facebook accounts.  There may be some communication somewhere, but I've yet to find it.

Should there be? When do you communicate and when do you keep silent?  It's one of the most important decisions in any crisis. 

Our general advice is that if you are already in the media, known by the media and communicate with the media, then you need to own the crisis communications.  In this case, I doubt we'll see Warner Bros as a central organization getting too involved - they're not the public face.  What I do expect is that media will start asking questions to the notable director/actors from this movie.  In effect these are the front line spokes people for this project.

So our crisis communication advice right now is to ensure the spokes people are getting the best possible media training and rehearsal for the soon-to-come barrage of media questions.

For more advice on how we can help your crisis communications - call us today!

What do you think Warner Bros. could do today in terms of crisis communications to mitigate financial loss?