When a crisis hits, speed is critical, seconds count, your initial actions will serve to either mitigate damage or magnify it.
There are four steps key to navigating an emerging crisis, four Rs:
Recognise, Respond, Regret, Remediate.
Acknowledge it is a crisis, check the key signs:
Have people or the environment been harmed?
Are corporate revenues or share price threatened?
Has it gone public?
Are the media calling?
Are normal business operations disrupted?
Is there potential for reputational harm?
A crisis falls outside of normal business operations. It requires strategic responses and could potentially threaten an organisation’s license to operate.
Time is crucial, minutes count in the modern media age. Failing to respond leaves a vacuum others will fill, organisations must assess and act, and fast. In crisis, getting the facts quickly and basing your response on them is crucial: What’s the damage, what’s fixable, what do we know, what is in the best interests of the company, and the community?
Be aware your initial actions and responses to crisis may have more impact than the original event.
In the quick-time world of modern communications and expectations, minutes matter when a crisis hits. Structures and protocols should already be in place to facilitate immediate responses.
The first step is to implement your crisis plan – assuming you have a plan.
The plan should outline the crisis management team with clarity around roles, including who is in charge of operational responses and who will speak publicly.
The team should be small, capable and with authority to act quickly. Its leader will ideally be internal and senior.
A crisis management expert should be on call, so call them. If you don’t have in-house legal counsel, you need a law firm on speed dial.
Operationally and publicly you need to be out in front of the issue, responsive and proactive, attempting to own or shape the messaging. You may need initial holding statement – stating further information will be made available as soon as possible.
Think about the stakeholders that should be notified; the chairman and the board, regulators, government, police, major investors, customers and suppliers, insurers, and don’t forget staff.
Acknowledge fault and take responsibility.
Make sure to use the ‘sorry’ word, be human, express concern for any victims – with genuine effort going into how things will be put right.
People can accept that mistakes happen, but they want an acknowledgment of responsibility before they – and the media – will move on.
Ensure messages go out across communications channels, including internally, and are consistent.
And, if a head has to fall, make it happen sooner rather than later.
An organisation’s message needs to be controlled as much as possible; shut down or closely monitor social media channels, instruct staff not to comment without approval.
Halt marketing and advertising campaigns, often there will be incongruous messaging – and it’s a poor investment when coverage is focussed on your problems.
Explain what steps have been taken to remediate the problem, and to ensure it does not happen again.
Ensure these messages are communicated to key influencers, critics, stakeholders and staff.
Utilise media relationships, offer exclusives and interviews containing key information to assist in projecting your messages.