If you own a business and have employees and onsite customers, then you have the perfect recipe for a potential public relations disaster. No matter what the critical event is that arises, it’s important to understand, that what you do and say next will have long term implications on you, or your organizations reputation. In a world of Facebook and Twitter, one misstep can go viral in a matter of minutes.
Do You Have a Strategy Ready for Any Type of Crisis?
Once the incident occurs, you won’t have much time to activate a plan when the press starts calling. It’s critically important that you have in place different plans of action, for any number of scenarios. If you’re unprepared you can be guaranteed, that what you say and the actions you take, won’t be the correct ones.
You need to know what you will say in response to any crisis, especially when the press starts to call. You can’t ignore them as you need to control the story, and not be defined by rumors that will ultimately spread. You can’t simply respond to a reporter with “no comment.” That creates the perception, right or wrong, that you’re guilty or your company is responsible.
When you have a plan of action at the ready, you’ll be better equipped to respond to the crisis, and use strategic plans that you’ve already drawn up, to help guide you through what comes next. You’ll be able to provide a more thoughtful response, instead of being caught off-guard and blurting out whatever comes to mind. Those who are not prepared for crisis mode often look like an animal caught in the headlights of a car.
You and your management team need to be prepared to respond as quickly as possible. This will allow you to address the issue at hand, not look like an irresponsible company, and allow you to project a company image that cares about the people affected by the crisis.
If you’re a large corporation you may need to face shareholders, or if you’re just a small business locally, you’ll be facing your customers and neighbors. You can use email to respond, as long as you understand, that what is said in the email will be made public. This then gives you time to prepare for your next step, which is often a follow-up with the press. At this point you need to be prepared to speak to the situation, and realize that the emphasis needs to be on how you will make people feel. Your empathy will be remembered more than the words you use.
Hire a legal team and a public relations consultant and listen to their instructions. You need your communications to be consistent each time you speak about the incident. If you don’t, you and your company will have your credibility destroyed. If you don’t have all the answers, don’t be afraid to say so, with the idea that a statement will be made in the future, that will clarify all events. Make sure to choose your words carefully, be sympathetic to the situation, and yet still project a positive attitude.
If you haven’t already stated planning for a crisis situation, consider hiring a company that deals in reputation management. They’ll work with you and your employees to prepare for any situation. They’ll advise you on how to handle each aspect of any possible situation, enabling you to have an action play ready should something happen. A reputation management company knows how to prepare you ahead of time, and also knows how to fix a damaged reputation after an event. With the speed of the internet world of Twitter and Facebook, you need to get out front and control the situation immediately.