In my last article, I discussed what a Public Relations firm does. One of those tasks, which I hope you never need but is important to understand, is crisis management. Not every company is going to go off the deep end like Amy’s Baking Company, or something worse. BUT, most companies will experience crisis of varying degrees throughout their business’s lives. So, whether you use a Public Relations firm or not, I thought this article might be useful in guiding you towards successfully handling and minimizing any damage.
Create a Plan Before Taking Action!
This is extremely important as many companies react without considering the ramifications of those actions. Assemble all your management staff and analyze the situation. Decide just how damaging the crisis could be and make sure, before anyone leaves, that there is a plan in place and everyone knows it. If you have a Public Relations firm, make sure that they are involved and help guide you. Ensure that everyone knows the official response, but choose one person to be the spokesperson for this crisis and stick with it. Just like the game of telephone, the more people you have answering questions, the more likely it will be that things get changed. After this initial management meeting, hold a company-wide meeting and mandate that nobody is to speak about this to any media, or address it in any way. Let them know who the spokesperson is and tell them to refer any questions to that person.
Discover the Problem
Make sure you identify the true problem, not just the reason for the crisis. Identify where it began, what went wrong and why.
Take Action – Fast!
In today’s world of social media, news can, and will, spread like wildfire. Be prepared to act fast. The longer you take to act, the more oxygen you allow to fuel the fire. Reassure the public that you are aware of the problem and are addressing it. Make sure that you are accurate and honest in your response and the information included. If you’re not, people will find out and you’ll only make matters worse. Your statement should also be brief. There’s no need to elaborate or write a thesis. Say what needs to be said but do it as concisely as possible.
Do Not Neglect Online Activity
Make sure that you are monitoring every social media channel, blogs and any media coverage regarding the crisis. Make sure that your statement is heard on all of them. There are many free tools available that will monitor the Internet for your company’s name and other relevant keywords that you can use to assist you with this. Overall, you should always be doing this; but it’s especially important during a crisis situation.
Hopefully, you’ll never face a crisis that warrants this type of attention. That being said, even the smallest of issues, in the hands of the wrong person, can be blown out of proportion. For example, something may have happened to a customer, or a friend of a customer that you may consider small, or may not even be aware of. However, this customer is extremely upset and feels the need to make this known. This customer could ,have the knowledge and ability to spread the story, and it can damage your reputation above and beyond any negative online review ever could. People can be extremely vigilant and ruthless in their quest for “justice”.
I hope that the tips provided above are helpful. The most important lesson to learn is to be prepared and to react analytically with a cool head and well formed plan.
by Sara Callahan