There are truck-loads of resources and ‘experts’ on crisis communications and reputation management. The best PR people in the business rely on proactive professional habits rather than reactive tactics to tell their story well in a crisis.
Here are 10 best-practices to use before, during and after bad news hits the fan:
- ANTICIPATE-Track and identify potential things that can go sideways in your company or organization. Build short, clear and simple communications plans for the top three or four issues. Even identifying a potential problem, communications objective, a series of action steps and crisis team roles is a good start.
- AVOID-Communications issues are not generally ‘accidents’. Highly valued PR pros help their companies see negative implications of bad policies, programs products and company action and suggest solutions that avoid or mitigate damaging events.
- COMMUNICATE FAST, ACCURATELY AND CONTINUOUSLY- Accept, understand and address the media’s interest and needs. Remember the ‘vacuum principle’. In a crisis, if you don’t tell your story, someone else will.
- HONESTY AND ACCOUNTABILITY MATTER. Fudging the truth, is not only unethical, it serves to pour gasoline on your brand in a fire. If your company has made an error, take responsibility for it, and do the right things, right to address the issue.
- EMPATHIZE-Express genuine concern and empathy during a crisis. In compassionate ways, acknowledge and address the feelings of those touched by the crisis.
- ALIGN YOUR COMPANY’S ACTIONS AND WORDS-Today what you DO in a crisis is most often more important that what you say in response to it.
- COORDINATE RESPONSE–Designated spokesperson, process i.e. contact logs, requests for interviews, media directory, boilerplate.
- ALWAYS HAVE PLAN ‘B’. As you consider communicating in a crisis, try to envision what could go wrong. It likely will. For example, if you represent a utility, remember the impact of bad weather, such as power outages, and the implications for customer communications.
- KNOW YOUR ORGANIZATION LIKE THE BACK OF YOUR HAND. Know who makes your company tick, from the C-suite to the front line managers. Develop strong operational and communications links with them. They are vital sources of intelligence.
- EVALUATE-Learn from your experience. After a crisis, identify what you did well and what you can and will improve.