I wrote a few months ago about dealing with a crisis and I thought it would be worth posting the key points again today. Here are a few tips on how to minimize the damage in a crisis.
It’s all about control. If you don’t have it you’re at the mercy of the press, social media and speculation. The sooner you regain control of the news agenda the better.
Have a plan. Successful crisis communications is all about the planning, so do it before the problem happens. You don’t want to be creating a strategy when the pressure is on – you want to be able to use it as soon as a crisis happens.
Get your side of the story on record as soon as you can. Otherwise the only story people hear is the accusations. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to regain control of the situation.
Use holding statements if you need to – they can provide a valuable tool that buy you some time – but get your side of the story in to the public domain as soon as possible. It’s important not to say something before you are ready, but if you have a plan you should be able to make a statement sooner rather than later.
Tell the truth. If you don’t it will come out and being seen to lie will only make the situation worse in the long run. Honest mistakes [if that’s what they are] will likely be forgiven more quickly if they are taken responsibility for, than if your audience thinks you aren’t being honest.
If you have something to own up to, do it sooner rather than later. If you’ve made a mistake acknowledging it, and apologizing, minimizes long-term damage to reputation.
If you aren’t guilty of the accusations being levelled against you or your business, be very clear that they are wrong [see my post on dealing with defamatory statements]
Apologize. Say sorry – if you need to – and mean it.
Don’t duck difficult questions. It’ll look like you have something to hide.
Keep statements to the facts. Don’t comment on things that aren’t directly related to the crisis, and don’t get drawn into commenting on rumour or speculation. If you don’t know the answer, say so.
In some cases a holding statement is the best strategy. It’ll give you more time to work on something more substantive, when you know more. It’s also important that if you give assurances that a full investigation will be conducted and a more detailed statement given once this has been completed you must do so in a timely manner.
Know what you’re dealing with before you say anything. Make sure you have a full understanding of what did and did not happen so that you can be sure what you’re saying is accurate. It’ll also ensure that you can’t be accused of misleading and allows you to avoid misunderstandings.
Understand the relative jurisdictions involved. Are there legal issues? Personal matters? It’s important to be clear what relates directly to your organization so that your communications strategy focuses on these issues and not on those that fall outside of your responsibility or sphere of expertise or legal jurisdiction.
If you have any questions about how to manage a crisis we’ll be happy to help you build a crisis management plan that will serve you well in the event that it is needed.