Crisis Management and PR – First Steps
Crisis? What Crisis? Nothing to see here!
Public Relations isn’t all about fixing a crisis. But there are occasions when something lands on your desk or inbox that makes you stop in your tracks.
Jonathan Healy, who has built up years of experience in helping people facing such problems, has top tips for Crisis Management that can see you through.
So, you have ended up in the middle of a communications crisis.
First of all, while this may seem overwhelming, you are not the first person to have found themselves in this position.
Whether it is your fault or not, your reputation or your brand may be impacted by information that has ended up in the public domain due to an incident or other activity beyond your control:
- Take a deep breath. Try to slow down your brain and don’t panic, no matter how bad it seems right now.
- Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and put the phone to one side.
- Take out pen and paper and complete the following exercise: Identify the problem in bullet points. List the people affected, including yourself, along personal and professional lines. List the possible implications that are of concern, again along personal and professional lines
The rules are simple for Crisis Management:
1) Don’t panic.
Human beings are experts at offering advice to others, but we are terrible at advising ourselves in a crisis.
If you act quickly or in a knee-jerk fashion, you risk doing more harm.
2) Seek counsel.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
Don’t isolate yourself – make sure you consult those outside the parties most affected by the issue. Chat with professionals who have experience in the areas of PR and Crisis Management.
3) Develop a plan.
It will evolve as you deal with the crisis, but you have a starting point. It helps to be proactive.
4) Prepared for uncomfortable truths.
Humans don’t like to admit mistakes. Sometimes it hurts to be told the truth, especially about something important to you.
5) There is no better defence than the truth.
If you have made a mistake, is there any harm in admitting that? It may be inevitable that the truth will come out. What might be perceived as damage control now could be catastrophic later if untruths are revealed.
6) Don’t let misinformation fill the void.
When you fail to communicate, others will fill the void. Some statements are always better than no statement, even if you only gather information. Remember who your audiences are. While you may be seeking to communicate publicly, you also have to consider an internal audience and customers or suppliers. Make sure you factor all these groups into your thought process.
7) Bring in the professionals.
A company such as ours would be in the best position to advise how to deal with a crisis by taking an outside, non-judgmental view of the issues at hand.
Companies have crises all the time. Some of them end up in the public realm but others stay internal. When faced with these issues, always ask yourself – is this a matter we need to address? More importantly, how would we manage it? Of the companies I have worked with over the years, the ones that are best prepared are those who have stress tested their response to a crisis in a simulation. Of course, this can be gloriously complicated or terrifically simplistic, but these exercises are a great way to learn how a senior management team responds to a crisis.
If you need help, contact us.