Posted by Pamela Swift in Communication Skills
Do you have a crisis communications plan in place yet?
“Yes” or “no” are both perfectly acceptable answers here. “Maybe” or “Uh, what?”…not so much.
If you aren’t sure what to do in the event of a serious PR crisis that threatens your organization’s public image, you’re living on borrowed time. Trust is much larger to lose than regain — and, if the lapse is serious enough, you might not have much time to regain it anyway.
“The biggest mistake you can make during a legitimate crisis is to try to navigate your response without a map,” says Rosemary Plorin, a seasoned public relations executive whose crisis communications advice is legendary in the healthcare PR field. “If you don’t yet have a crisis communications plan, you and your team need to put one together, with help from an outside expert if necessary.”
Not sure where to start? These crisis management tips can help you wrap your head around the problem.
- Have Assets on Standby
The moment a crisis hits, your team needs to spring into action. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday or 3 a.m. on a Saturday. Here’s where a solid plan – and up-to-date notification tree – are essential. Make sure your early response plan is well oiled, with content production and human assets identified and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- Put Your Point People Forward…
…And keep them on message. The importance of clear, consistent messaging can’t be overstated, no matter the nature or tenor of the crisis.
Depending on the size, scope, and geographical reach of your organization, you’ll likely have a few people facing the cameras (or equivalent) during your crisis. These people need to be qualified and trusted in those roles. Everyone else — even if they’re used to discussing your organization’s activities in public — needs to step back and, frankly, shut up. The cost of an off-message outburst far outweighs the benefit of an authoritative face at the dais.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Admit and Own Up to Mistakes
And fast, if warranted.
If you’re really honest with yourself and possess even a perfunctory capacity for self-reflection, you know when you’ve made a mistake. The same logic applies to your organization.
Many crises are exacerbated by stubborn process owners who refuse to own up to clear-cut mistakes. This failure can draw out a crisis, creating a slow-rolling disaster that does more harm to your organization’s reputation. Corporate apologies are often necessary whether it was the CEO or a low level admin at fault.
- Analyze the Crisis and Response
This falls under the “learn from your mistakes” rubric. You never want to expect another crisis, but it’s foolish not to be prepared. Once the acute phase of the crisis has passed, analyze the sequence of events that led to it, the timeline on which it unfolded, and what went right and wrong with your response. And expect that the crisis will follow you for a good while. Prepare your team with messages to help them address concerns or questions that come up months or even years after the issue has faded from the spotlight.