Crises happen when we least expect them. Are you prepared?
Most organizations have no tangible plan on how to communicate when a crisis occurs. This typically leads to a disorganized, unfocused response. Public confidence ebbs and years of image-building work are undone.
Our firm has experience helping guide organizations through difficult media and public relations crises. This experience informs our approach and underscores the need for planning and training before a crisis occurs.
Here are just a few basic tips. If you don't have a plan that identifies solutions to these and other issues that could arise during a crisis, contact us today for help.
1. Stop using jargon.
One of the key mistakes made during a crisis is assuming that a lawyer or engineer is the best spokesperson because they have the most direct and in-depth knowledge. There are two options here: A. Work with those experts to re-word their answers in plain english or B. have those experts share with an inside source who can re-word and act as spokesperson. You generally only get one shot at an explanation, don't ruin it with jargon and too much detail!
2. Don't assume your "brand" is strong enough to withstand a crisis.
When a crisis happens and the media starts calling the answer isn't "no comment" because you think you're strong enough to ignore the problem away. Organizations of all sizes, shapes have to dig in, get proactive and work the crisis to ensure that customers, other stakeholders and the media are well-informed.
3. In a crisis response, don't favor one medium over another.
Newspapers can't print a press conference video and the news can't show a press release. Know your media audience and make sure each gets what they need - video for TV, audio for radio, and quotes and background for newspapers.
4. Don't forgot the emotional response.
"Just the facts" won't necessarily work when responding to a crisis, because crises often induce emotional responses in addition to practical ones. Think about the BP oil spill and it's aftermath. The company didn't just fix the problem with the well and walk away. Their advertising in the aftermath talked about their commitment to the community, to the environment. Simply saying that the well was fixed and the problem could be avoided in the future would never have been enough.
5. Don't wait for the media to call
Too often organizations attempt to downplay a crisis until it is made public. Your organization will emerge stronger if you take a proactive approach to working a crisis as soon as it happens rather than when the first public awareness happens.
6. Share ALL the information
There's nothing worse than sharing the details, response and plan of action with the media and community only to have a new angle to the crisis emerge the next day. It ruins your credibility and will likely cause your key stakeholders to turn on you. Even if it means sharing information not yet public, it's better to get everything out at the front end so that you can work on a solution to the whole problem.