Calm before the storm: The Top Five Do’s and Don’t of Crisis Management
Crises strike in various forms. They can be planned for, but unless you have a crystal ball, predicting the finer points is extremely difficult.
Recent studies have shown that companies with an action plan already in place – and the ability to follow that plan – tend to come out best, their value held and board members in one piece.
Although this sounds an obvious point, still now, in 2015, PR professionals encounter companies large and small with no crisis communications plans.
Now more than ever, companies have to stand up to scrutiny. There are greater regulations. The public demands greater transparency, and rightly so.
The combination of factors makes it ever more important to be able to analyse risks and deal with them accordingly.
Having a crisis plan is one key factor. But what about other Crisis Management Do’s, and actions you should definitely not do when cast into the eye of the media storm?
Crisis Management Do’s’ v Top Five Crisis Management Do Nots
1: DO ensure you have a crisis plan in place. This will include a crisis team, which should be formed of a small core of senior people and advisors. Everyone must be fully aware of what they are doing and when. One or two key people should be in charge of declaring when this team is activated.
DON’T expect it all to blow over if you aren’t ready and know how to deal with it. The companies left playing crisis catch-up are often the ones which suffer most.
2: DO make sure your spokespeople are media trained and fully briefed before they speak to any journalist or TV company. Media training is a vital investment to make. Even the most confident CEOs and directors should receive training if they are likely to engage with the media.
DON’T try to wing it. This never works. Journalists are skilled professionals who will maximise the opportunity if they feel the person they are dealing with is the weak link.
3: DO stay calm and pause for thought when a crisis hits. This may be difficult under the circumstances. The best way to start a crisis management process is to show strong leadership. Your staff will be looking for this, not lots of people running around not looking like they are in control.
DON’T rush into decisions. Remember – in the midst of a crisis, every move is monitored. Words cannot be unspoken; each action will have a consequence.
4: DO get the facts as early and as clearly as possible. Ask yourself the question – do you know as much about the situation as the journalist who may be calling to put a story to you? If not, get the right people around you and make sure all the information is to hand. There may be a nugget of info which stops an initial enquiry becoming a full-blown crisis.
DON’T forget about two of your most important assets – the people you do business with, and your workforce. B2B communications and internal communications in a crisis are often overlooked but need to be handled correctly. Imagine your workers or a supplier reading something about your company before being told about the situation by you direct? Communication is key.
5: DO make sure the strategy for dealing with the situation includes social media. Ignore at your peril.
DON’T be afraid to ask for outside help, be it from lawyers, PRs or other advisors. You will have a strong team around you, no doubt, but investing in external help is far more cost-effective than being caught cold by a crisis.