How to Manage a Crisis
By Jo Preston on Friday, 26 February 2016
A crisis can appear from anywhere. Careful planning and identification of risk is essential for any company to mitigate issues, but in an age of social media and 24/7 communication no amount of preparation can make a company bulletproof.
This is where communications advice becomes essential. Most companies now understand that any issue they face, whether internal or external, carries a reputational risk. So bringing communications consultants into the circle of trust needs to happen early. There are times when less is more, particularly when it comes to media response. But that does not mean saying nothing, putting your head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away. It means taking control, deciding on the initial response and then developing operational and communications response plans, and continuing to assess and evolve those plans throughout the lifespan of the crisis.
Social media can give the impression that a problem is escalating. It’s easy to spend a lot of time searching Twitter and feeling like a growing number of people are getting involved. And where that commentary is critical, the pressure increases. But take a step back before panicking – your PR adviser will give you a truer picture of reality. Often what is on social media is noise: tweets from people that have few followers and no real influence. This is not an escalation, but it can feel like one. Keeping a cool head in a crisis, referring back to your initial strategy and not being pressured to respond at every turn is essential.
Showing leadership means getting on the front foot, and sticking to your plans. Whether that is issuing a short statement and then focusing on repairing operation damage, or ensuring your CEO is front and centre of any media response, the important thing is control.
Finally, don’t forget the long term. Once the immediate storm has passed, the temptation is to heave a sigh of relief and get back to business. That would be a mistake. Pull your core team together again and create a twelve-month communications plan to rebuild trust amongst your key internal and external stakeholders.
Reputation is hard won but easily lost, and therefore so important to maintain.