Please remain calm…
Advance Planning Can Prepare You for Anything (well, almost anything)
By Phyllis K. Ershowsky, APR, MBA, Principal
PKE Marketing & PR Solutions, LLC
Adjunct Professor in Public Relations, Florida Gulf Coast University
Your common sense tells you that your business may be faced with a crisis situation at some point, but human nature often prevents you from doing anything about it. The fact is, even though dreadful catastrophe doesn’t happen every day, events that can be defined as crises happen all the time. You should be prepared because yes, it can happen to you. You’ve worked hard to build your business reputation and you will want to do everything you can to protect it.
Just within the last few months I have encountered several local firms that have experienced unexpected situations that attracted immediate media attention: one suffered a high-profile lawsuit from a disgruntled employee; another had an unfortunate on-the-job accident; and a third has been questioned about the safety of components they use in the manufacturing process. When the media calls, “No Comment,” is not an acceptable answer – so what should you do to protect your business?
In “Strategic Planning and Public Relations,” author Ronald D. Smith provides six Strategic Principles for Crisis Management. When I create a crisis management plan for my clients, I always incorporate these guidelines:
Principle of Exist as well as with colleagues. Keep everyone informed – these are the people that support you and will help you in your rebuilding activities following the crisis.
Principle of Media-as-Ally
Crises invite scrutiny because they have potential impact on a large number of people. So treat the news media as allies that will help you communicate with key publics. A good pre-existing program of media relations can make this type of communication go more smoothly.
Principle of Reputational Priorities
Following the safety of you and your employees, your top priority is your reputation. This will help you focus on doing what’s best for your customers, employees and other key publics.
Principle of Quick Response
Be accessible to your publics as quickly as possible. A standard guideline is the one-hour rule – within an hour of learning about a crisis, the organization should be prepared to have its first message available to its publics, particularly the media.
Principle of Full Disclosure
Silence is not acceptable. Without admitting fault or speculating about facts still unknown, the organization should present as much information as possible about the particular event.
Principle of One Voice
A single, trained spokesperson should represent the organization. If this is not possible, the two or three people appointed should be aware of what the others are saying and all should work together from the same facts.
This is the basic framework for the beginnings of a full crisis management plan – we don’t want to expect the worst, but good preparation will enable all of us to move forward in a positive, optimistic manner. And while we cannot prepare for everything, in most cases a good plan will enable you to manage a crisis calmly, quickly and efficiently