Unfortunately, a crisis can happen to any business. Sometimes this is trivial and does not attract the attention of the media. But sometimes it is worst.
As Warren Buffet pointed out: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it." It can also take years to repair a damaged reputation once it has been tarnished. So, if your reputation has been damaged, most crisis communication professionals will advise you to react quickly, decisively, and transparently. Would a reasonable person expect a responsible organization to respond? In most crisis communication situations, the answer to this question is obviously yes. A crisis can take the form of a high-profile employee scandal, a natural disaster, or even just a vicious rumor that grabs the attention of the media. You can't always avoid getting into hot water; the best thing you can do is prepare for the possible consequences.
Here are some tips to help you deal with trouble should it arise:
1 Stay honest
This first tip is perhaps the most important. Honesty is the best policy because it helps avoid phrases that damage credibility and reputation. If your organization is responsible for an accident, admit it in your media statement.
2 Define and identify the problem
It is imperative that you concentrate on defining and identifying the problem before any communication. For example, if a company is faced with an employee scandal, it should investigate and determine the cause. At this point, she may also consider consulting a legal professional who will recognize the potential implications of certain phrases or words.
3 Use key messages, verified information and don't be defensive
The main objective of communications during a crisis is to inform about the 5 Ws: who, what, when where and why. Use the 5Ws to guide the structure of your communications. Of course, in many cases the information will be limited. This is why you will have to promise the public that more details will be released as soon as you have them.
4 Produce at least three key messages
The key messages will become the basis of the statement. Suppose you have limited details about an incident, you can build your communication around the facts: "This afternoon, provincial regulators sent me an official statement notifying that the president of our company is suspected of fraud." One key message, however, is not enough, even if you don't know everything. So, to add to our example, the following could be used: “Our company is committed to cooperating with the official investigation. The third key message would look like, "To ensure that the president cannot access any sensitive information relating to the company, it has been decided to restrict his accesses."
5 Present the problem in a general context
This technique is often used by businesses to minimize the impact of bad news or to add perspective to an incident. Note that in this case negative words should be avoided, such as "another problem" and "frequent errors".
6 Express your empathy and take action
It is not wise to create a wedge between the company and the public or employees by using negativity. A better idea is to express empathy through a spokesperson. Empathetic writing includes words like "we appreciate", "we understand" and "we recognize". But it not enough. Be sure to take action. The old adage: Acknowledge-Apoligize-Adress holds true. Especially adressing the issues with concrete actions.
So when a crisis arises don't let it destroy your life's work. Take action.
If you have any questions or need help. Drop us a line!