A crisis is an inevitable occurrence that can arise in a corporation on any given day. Oil spills, faulty technology, information hacking, hazardous chemical releases and more are unintentional accidents that can ruin a company’s reputation if not handled properly.
Regardless of industry category, companies must prepare for the possibility of disaster and the rapid dissemination of news in our hyperactive, ultra-prolific and fragmented media universe. No matter how often crises arise, many companies still make basic mistakes when handling these situations, often causing a long-term negative impact on public opinion, brand value and share prices.
Here are a few basic tips to consider:
Be Prepared and React Immediately
Crisis communications can save most corporations from having a negative image burden if prepared in advance and acted upon immediately.
The immediacy of today’s news and the proliferation of information via social media can push images and stories around the world within minutes, creating a backlash of public opinion against a company and their employees long before the next news cycle. For many, seeing victims and hearing their stories are difficult things to overcome and may forever be associated with the company.
Good planning and preparation is the key to a successful crisis communications plan. The time to plan for a crisis is not when it is happening, but rather long before anything happens. Assembly of a crisis management team that regularly engages in scenario planning and preparation is essential to rapid mobilization and implementation when a crisis occurs.
Provide a Company Face for the Public
A company spokesperson who is seen as sincere, relatable and cool under pressure will have a powerful effect on public perception. Trustworthiness and believability are essential when relating details of how a company is properly handling a situation. A good spokesperson can mitigate further damage to a company’s image and reduce the news cycle duration.
Convey Honest Empathy
Recent events in the political and corporate world have taught us to be transparent and get out ahead of the story by having your designated spokesperson seen in the media as soon as possible. “Heart felt” sentiments are nice but overused and mean little in today’s media savvy society. Company spokespeople need to focus on victims of the tragedy and clearly state what they will do to help them. It’s important to accept blame if warranted, but also to center the attention on what the company is doing to remedy the situation and/or assist the victims and their families.
Control the Message
After an incident there will be rumors circulating and misrepresentations about the situation that will be spread online and in the media. A company needs to contact select key media and coordinate a series of stories concerning the event within hours after the incident to ensure a steady stream of news coverage that provides the facts, shares the company’s perspective, and offers balance. As new information is discovered, the company should be proactive in sharing details with media outlets.
Stick to the Facts and Be Transparent
Facts can be your best friend, speculation your worst enemy. The initial response of a business may be to hide the worst of its mistakes from the public. The fact is, in most cases the truth comes out one way or another regardless how hard a company may try to "contain" the information. Time and time again, we’ve seen examples that prove it is far better to be accountable from the start than to be seen as covering up information or playing the blame game.
In a crisis people want information. Releasing important facts and details early in the news cycle will begin to gain the public’s trust, which helps the company be seen as a cooperative partner in the investigation rather than an antagonist or "evil" monolithic corporation.
If a company wants to be seen as a member of their community, and as a good global corporate citizen, then crisis communications must be an essential facet of their strategic communications program. During an unforeseen tragedy, it can limit the impact of a crisis and potentially save a company from irreversible harm to their reputation and financial stability.
Contact JFK Communications today to learn how planning for effective crisis communications is a valuable investment.