Crisis management is about identifying a potential crisis, planning a response to the crisis and puitting it into action to confront and resolve the crisis.
Public Relations is about managing reputations. For the most part it’s about projecting a positive image of a company or organisation and managing communications.
There are times when unforeseen damaging circumstances arise that may pose a threat to a company’s reputation.
Remember the Cadbury salmonella scare? Cola Cola’s Dasani disaster? The implications of these were global.
While any potential crisis affecting your company or organisation might not have as far reaching consequences it’s always good to have a crisis management plan to hand.
When and why?
Crisis management is about planning ahead. It’s about making sure you have the tools to hand before a potential incident happens. Once it’s happened it’s too late!
Having as plan to hand means you and your company will not be caught off-guard and will be in a better position to handle what could be potentially damaging media questions.
Top tips for success
1. Plan ahead
Don’t wait for an unexpected crisis to catch you off-guard. Plan, plan ahead.
If you are organising an event think about what is going on and what might happen. Health and safety assessments and measures will have been put in place but think about the ‘what ifs’.
What if there is an accident? What if there is a death?
Or perhaps think about the product or services? Could someone have a serious or fatal accident with your product if used improperly? What is a supplier messes up?
2. Establish a primary media contact
Times of crisis call for the careful management of communication. Make sure every one in the company is aware of who the initial press contact should be.
Too many people in the company dealing with too many queries could lead to conflicting and misleading information being given to the press.
It should be made clear that there should be one and only one initial media contact. Other members of management may be used as spokespeople down the line but only after they are fully briefed.
3. Company contacts
Have a list of company personnel involved and their contact numbers to hand, to inform as soon as a crisis has happened.
They need to know what has happened so they are not caught off guard and direct any media queries to spokespeople as agreed.
4. Never lie
Never, ever lie. You will inevitably be found out to the cost of your personal credibility and company’s reputation. Admit to what has happened and deal with it in the best way you can
5. Decide on your 'line' or statement
If it’s something completely out of the blue and completely unexpected, for example complaints about a faulty batch of product, the line might be ‘Thanks you for bringing this to our attention.
We were not aware of the problem and will try to resolve it as soon as possible. We will also put in place measures to avoid it happening again.’
If you have more warning and have thought about what situations may arise, in the case of an event, the line might be: We take every precaution to ensure the safety of all people taking part in ‘our events’ is paramount to our pre, during and post operations.
In ‘insert number’ years of the event we have never encountered any serious incidents, as we do thorough risk assessments and we have an independent expert medical team on hand to ensure any incidents are professionally dealt with.
6. Questions and answers
Decide if you just want to issue a statement or answer journalists’ questions. Just issuing a statement may make you appear uncooperative but do it could be dangerous to deal with the media unless you have had media training or feel at ease with the questions they may ask.
Try and consider the questions they might put to you and then think of the answer you want to deliver.
- Why did this happen?
- What safeguards had been put in place to prevent this happening?
- Were there any emergency services in attendance? (If it’s an event)
- What action will you taking to ensure this never happens again?
7. Dont' panic
People will be looking to you for advice and direction. It’s important to hold things together and stay in control.
8. There are no hard and fast rules
Your response will depend on the type of incident that has happened, it’s severity and the number of people involved.
Try and research other crises and how they have been dealt and then relate them back to your potential crisis. It’s an awkward business.
You may not have a complete solution but with some careful planning at least you can look at controlling the impact and messages that being disseminated to the media.
Costs and benefits
Can you place a cost on the reputation of your business and the importance of its relationship with customers and clients? Crises will cost.
It’s inevitable there will be some fall out but crisis management is about damage limitation.
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