Communication: The Key to Crisis Management

If you’re someone who really only wants to know the takeaways, here you go. The best time to handle a PR disaster is before it happens. And if you can’t, answer the challenge with transparency and truthfulness.  Otherwise... Failure to communicate is the first key to successful crisis management.

Want it faster? It’s all about communication.

I’m not saying any old communication will immediately quell a PR disaster. “No comment” isn’t communicating with your audience. But say SOMETHING. To your employees. To your clients and customers. To your board. To everyone. Saying something shows you care.

Of course, what is most important is exactly what you say and do—which is why there’s an entire industry dedicated to crisis PR. It takes time to craft an answer your audience deserves. It takes time to save face, repair a reputation and mitigate any financial repercussions. We get that. But your audience is smart, and they want to hear you’re working on a solution, or taking action or at least thinking about how you’re going to take action. But if you demand that the public assume the worst, go radio silent, or you’re willing to use the nuclear bad crisis management decision, simply say, “No comment”.

Crisis PR is more challenging now than ever. With social media today, when even a little something goes awry, it can become a crisis. And a crisis that could have previously died by end of day, can now be rehashed, re-shared and brought up again. And again and again.

If your reputation is all you have, how do you manage your unmanageable social profile?

The recent Business2Community.com article provides helpful tips for setting up your social backend, the management for potential crisis. Pre-crisis, during and post-. Of course, handling a PR crisis happens long before a crisis ever exists. Setting up your response strategies and policies are critical to handling any potential or future issues: division of labor, how fast to react, who handles each platform and how, the process for fact checking or final signoff, designating the spokesperson, etc. The process is extensive, especially for larger organizations.

Yet, to clearly articulate what the previous article mentioned above and what I’m trying to get across is one thing often overlooked—the combined training of customer service and social media. Regardless of industry, a combination of the two needs to be factored within your strategy and overall employee training. If a customer, or even employee, voices dissatisfaction, it’s within that discussion, that very moment, a PR crisis can begin (a.k.a. a Comcast Moment).  Everyone in your company has the ability to catch the warning signs and circumvent a potential media crisis. It is the responsibility of your entire organization to manage any and all situations that could lead to a potential PR crisis.

Okay that’s great in theory, but a million situations can throw you into a reputation disaster: the angry customer didn’t say anything and instead went straight to the net. A former employee brought up allegations about his/her previous corporation. Quality Control didn’t catch a faulty or inappropriate item, the list goes on.

And yet, to retain customers and keep your audience happy, the best advice for reputation management and crisis PR is to reply with an actual, timely response. And to do so with honesty and integrity.