Earlier in August, I received a call from a person needing crisis PR help fast. A customer had died on their premises and I consulted them on their talking points to various stakeholders like the family, employees, other customers present, and the media at large. Honestly, this scenario and others are very likely to play out in any organization. This article will address nine tips to consider so you are prepared when crisis strikes and can best manage it.
1. Imagine 3-10 possible crisis scenarios.
These scenarios could be any situation that is threatening or could threaten to harm people or property, seriously interrupt business, significantly damage reputation and/or negatively impact the bottom line.
2. Establish your crisis team and a spokesperson.
This should include one or two people from the brand’s executive/management and one person experienced with public speaking and doing on-camera interviews (internal employee who gets training or hired guns like GoodBuzz. Email me at [email protected] if you’d like my help). Read these tips for speaking on TV. More than these two or three people is up to you, but remember with more mouths on a team the less agile you become, which can inhibit effective leading during a crisis.
3. Develop a simple message template for each possible scenario.
Each scenario’s template message needs to be broken down by the various internal and external stakeholders that will be affected. In my recent crisis PR example, the family of the customer who died had a different message and tone than the public media response during the press briefing. We also had slightly varied messaging for staff, of a more personal tone. Having basic sentences and short paragraphs pre-filled for your possible scenarios will make it much easier when the crisis comes.
4. Assemble notification systems for your contacts.
When a crisis hits, you’ll want to quickly and effortlessly contact your stakeholders with your message. Ensure your email lists are segmented appropriately now, while you have the luxury of time. Increase the number of your customers who have liked your Facebook page (and engage with them positively now). Update your employee contact directory with new phone numbers. Do the monotonous work now of data cleaning and importing so you’re in good shape when the time comes to alert your various affected audiences.
5. Determine your positive call-to-action
With each crisis, there is often an action that can help alleviate future occurrences of a similar nature. What training or workshop could you offer that would minimize blow-back or a similar crisis from occurring?
Perhaps you can state in your public comments that you are planning a staff training on CPR, or a free accounting training for what’s changed in 2017, or you are offering customers a free workshop on managing stocks. Think about what your brand could complimentary offer your stakeholders that would address any push back from what this crisis or possible scenarios could bring. Take the corrective, proactive action. Go ahead and plan the date and time. Invite the expert to lead the CPR training and stock workshop. And by all means add this into your messaging templates. It will go a long way to demonstrate your competence to manage a crisis and take action to decrease the likelihood that it happens again.
6. Set up Google Alerts and monitor it regularly.
To make sure you’re aware of everything being said about your brand, go ahead and set up a Google Alert on your organization (or your name for those of you that are public figures).
7. Respond promptly to the media.
It’s easy to want to hide from the media and hope the situation goes away. But, it won’t and if you delay, the problem will grow. It’s better to get in front of the situation and you frame the crisis instead of having someone else or the journalist do it for you.
8. If you don’t know all the facts or are unsure, say so.
It’s terrible and wrong to lie. As with many crises, often the story takes a few hours or days (sometimes weeks) to fully be revealed as cooperation with other stakeholders, law enforcement, and other agencies takes place. Be clear in your statements that “We will be supplying additional information when it is available and posting it on our website” or something to that effect.
9. Analyze the crisis after it’s over
How did we do? What could have been better? How will we do things differently next time a crisis occurs? These should all be questions your crisis team asks after the situation has calmed down and things are back to normal. Make sure to write down what you learned and pen pointers for the next time of specific things you’ll do and not do based off this experience.
When brands anticipate crisis scenarios planning for it ahead of time, they are prepared from the get-go, save valuable resources, and maintain a strong reputation. Plan today and get your crisis PR plan in order. Contact us for help now or when you should find yourself in a crisis scenario.
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