When a company crisis erupts, your crisis management team should aim to respond in such a way that will save your brand and reputation.
Any business, big or small, will face a kind of public relations (PR) crisis when they least expect it. The way you respond can help to save your brand and retain the customers trust. In this information technology age, news travel at more than the speed of a forest fire. It is advisable to have a team ready to handle the situation.
A crisis communications team could include a strategist, team leader, someone from the risk management department, a person from human resource, a public relations person, and a staff with legal training.
The PR people in the company are the main ones to handle a crisis. Their responsibility is broader than only advising and implementing news and social media strategies in a crisis. They need to take a leading role in guiding positive decision-making and protecting the company’s reputation.
Kinds of Crisis
Examples of crises are when your firm’s IT servers have been hacked and customers’ data stolen; or your production floor is under a metre of flood water and production comes to a halt; or if you are a food caterer, 50 customers have suffered from food poisoning.
The team should gather all the facts first. What do you know? Are those involved our staff or outsiders? Has the story appeared on social media? Has this type of situation happened previously? How did the company manage such situations then?
The worst thing management can do is to try to sweep the problem under the carpet. Take responsibility immediately. After an initial investigation, the crisis management team should release a preliminary press release.
If you take your own time to do damage control, the damage could become worse by the hour. Take a positive view of the situation, be transparent in your answers to media queries, and be accountable.
The team should write a provisional media statement that includes the facts they know at the time. Update the statement as more facts are known.
At the crisis team meeting, the leader should brief the members on the situation and discuss the next course of action.
They should decide on the crisis communications tactics to take. Is this a proactive crisis which relates to threats to public health, safety or property? Or is it a reactive case such as non-threat to public health, safety, or property?
Let the crisis management team answer all questions from the media or members of the public. Direct relevant calls or messages to a single phone number or E-mail address. The company’s spokespersons must be trained. If such personnel are not available in-house, appoint a PR agency to handle the crisis.
Bad news travel very quickly on the social media. They spread like viruses and if not contained, the damage will grow worse by the hour. Appoint more staff to monitor the social media.
If the company is in the wrong, apologise first to satisfy the anger of those involved. Avoid going on the defensive at this stage.
It is a good idea for the crisis management team to develop holding statement prepared long before a crisis erupts. When composed during calm times, the statements are more clear-headed. These statements could be updated before release.
Avoid telling the other party that the company has no comments. This is the worst answer as it may imply that the company is playing for time and avoiding responsibility.
Listen to the team first. Don’t try to find a scapegoat at this initial stage. Those responsible can be dealt with much later when the crisis is over.
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