You can never be too prepared when it comes to crisis management. Now more than ever, it’s important for organizations to have a communication plan in place to control and effectively respond to a crisis or potential crisis situation as quickly as possible. You only have to look at the recent Progressive Insurance lawsuit scandal to see how quickly a company’s reputation can be tarnished. Even “Flo” can’t turn that frown upside down!
The most important things one must do in any “crisis” situation are:
- Disseminate accurate information as quickly as possible;
- Respond to incorrect information that may be circulating; and
- Activate appropriate mechanisms to keep the public, media and stakeholders informed on an ongoing basis
It’s vital that initial information be kept simple, so the message for both the public and media is as clear as possible. Once the initial crisis phase has passed, providing more detailed background information for the media is also often important.
Here are ten tips for effectively handling a crisis situation:
- Don’t wait until crisis hits to put a crisis management plan together.
- Respond in a timely manner – The more you wait, the more damage can be done.
- Be quick, but be factual.
- Select a primary spokesperson to represent the organization throughout the crisis process.
- All communications (press releases/statements) should go through one channel – you don’t want the media going to other sources for information.
- Assign a designated back-up spokesperson to step in should the primary spokesperson be unavailable.
- Never say “No comment” (it implies guilt) or speak “off the record” (there is no such thing).
- Discuss whether the crisis calls for a video response by the primary spokesperson to give it a more human touch.
- Express empathy and concern when victims are involved – you don’t want to deflect blame and come off as insensitive and uncaring.
- Don’t bury bad news – It will get out eventually.
Having a crisis communications plan in place is vital and when handled well, can limit the negative press your organization faces in the long run.