In this world of instant media, we see situations play out daily on a local, national, and international level that call for well-planned crisis management and effective crisis communications. Whether an executive, celebrity, small business, or corporation, developing and following a comprehensive crisis plan and core crisis public relations principles can make the difference between a PR recovery or disaster.
What the public understands, it trusts.
What it trusts, it supports.
Public sentiment is everything.
With it, nothing can fail.
Without it, nothing can succeed.
Have a written Crisis Management plan that everyone in the organization knows and understands. Review this plan often, both personally and with your staff, and visualize its execution; rehearse certain scenarios if you deem necessary. Seek professional crisis PR assistance in devising, practicing, and executing this plan.
In the event of a crisis, the primary reaction and mindset should represent the “Five Cs”:
- Control – Take control of the situation, property, etc.. The safety and welfare of your customers, employees, and others take precedence over everything else. Immediately activate your Crisis Management Plan.
- Calm – Remain calm in your dealings with all involved parties, i.e., customers and their relatives, employees, emergency personnel, media. Calmness is contagious.
- Candid - Explain what happened to superiors, authorities, and media to the best of your knowledge. If you don’t know, find out. Do this quickly, accurately, and honestly.
- Contrite - If you and/or your company were to blame, apologize and express your regret, saying that every effort will be made to see that this doesn’t happen again.
- Compassionate - Be sorry for any loss, injuries, or inconveniences . . . and mean it when you say it.
- The public expects and appreciates an apology...and the public is quick to forgive those who say genuinely, “I’m sorry.”
- Don’t let costs interfere with doing what’s right.
- Don’t prolong a crisis. Get it over with and out of the news as quickly as possible.
When dealing with the media in crisis situations:
- Identify the company spokesperson.
- Never release names of victims.
- Never try to talk “off the record.”
- Don’t make excuses or minimize the situation.
- Don’t provide unnecessary or excess information.
- Use language the media and public will understand.
- Avoid answering “what if” questions.
- Never lose your cool.
- Never say “no comment.” Give your reason for not answering the question.
- Be accurate, brief, and clear.
- Don’t try to be funny.
- Don’t pass the blame.
- Always be honest!