Combating A Crisis
Author: Gina Mason/July 8, 2013
In today’s world of Twitter, iPhones, YouTube and the 24-hour news cycle, we can no longer question IF a crisis will happen; it is now a matter of WHEN it will happen. All it takes is one photo, one email, one tweet or one cellphone video to turn something into a national PR nightmare. There are countless examples of these nightmares circulating in the news, such as Paula Deen’s racial snafu and Jets QB Mark Sanchez’ no-pants-dance video. That is why it is imperative to have a solid crisis communications plan ready to go before “you-know-what hits the fan.”
Before the Crisis:
v Watch and learn
It is a good rule of thumb to get into the habit of observing crisis communication plans in the media. Take note of what other PR teams do when they face controversy and pay attention to how the media and the public receive their tactics. Crisis communication can be a process of trial and error and learning from others can help you navigate through a difficult situation of your own.
v Be prepared
Prior to a crisis, it is always beneficial to be prepared with a plan of attack. Although, you cannot specifically predict a crisis, you can prepare a communications strategy and a solid foundation to build upon. Brainstorming initial reaction plans, creating contact lists of key spokespeople, preparing statements and drafting social media responses to hypothetic scenarios are all simple practices that can be tailored to the specific crisis when it happens.
During the crisis:
v Respond as soon as possible
This is where being prepared is a huge asset in crisis management. By responding before or immediately after the news breaks, makes you or your brand appear to be proactive, not reactive. Getting your message out to the public as soon as possible will help your efforts as you repair the damage that has been done. That being said, responding quickly with “no comment” or silence may make you appear guilty. Tell the public what you know and how you plan on fixing the situation.
v Help the media, help you
Media relations is a vital component when dealing with a crisis. Complying with the media makes dealing with a crisis a lot easier. Try to utilize the relationships you have with media members to get your message out. Hold press conferences, issues statements and post things on your social media sites to spread your message to a large audience.
v Be honest
“Your Honor, I did not have sexual relations with that woman” – Bill Clinton
Take a lesson from Bill Clinton. When it comes to a crisis, the best option is always tell the truth. Lying, denying, placing blame on others or sidestepping the question usually will backfire in the end. Deceiving the public will not only make matters worse, it will tarnish you or your brand’s reputation and credibility.
Everyone makes mistakes and the best policy is to “own it.” If you admit your wrong doing, people will respect that. People appreciate honesty and you will be more likely to repair a majority of the damage if you have their trust.
After the Crisis:
v Rebuild trust
After the crisis dies down, make sure that you demonstrate how you have learned from your mistakes. Prove to the public that you have changed and give them a reason to trust you or your brand again. Participate in meaningful events, give back to a good cause or do something newsworthy that will show you or your brand in a positive light.
v Give it time
The most important thing to remember when dealing with a crisis is that it will not go away overnight. It may take a few days, weeks, months or years depending on the severity of the situation before the news of your crisis fades away. Be patient, it takes time to forgive and forget. You can rely on the fact that someone will do something more noteworthy and your crisis will become a thing of the past.
Combating a crisis can be very stressful; however using these tips will help you tackle any crisis big or small. Here at Indra Public Relations, we have years of experience specializing in crisis communication and are always prepared to handle any negative situation before it presents itself.
As always, I welcome all comments and if you like what you read, be social and share.