The following crisis communication tips are meant to provide you with your initial steps. If you need help managing a crisis, call us immediately at 310-479-0217.
Quite often, the clients who call us for help managing their crisis communications and preparing their executives or clients to face the media are doing so because they have not planned for crises, which everyone who is in business should do.
If you’re a service provider, crises can arise from several situations, including being discredited publicly, a verbal misunderstanding or use of a poor choice of words. If you produce a product, crises can arise from a fault in your product, problems with distribution or questionable manufacturing procedures, among other things. These things can happen to individuals or companies of any size, from one-person shops to the largest corporations in the world.
For celebrities, athletes and other public figures, how a crisis is managed can make the difference between preserving or losing lucrative endorsement deals and prospects.
Quick crisis communication tips to get you started:
Crisis communication tip #1: Don’t hide.
If a situation that reflects negatively on you, your client or your company has become public knowledge and the media are contacting you for a comment, here are some steps to follow:
Do not answer their questions on the spot, but do take their calls and tell them you will get back to them within a certain timeframe, whether it’s minutes or hours, but try to do it quickly enough for them to meet their respective story deadlines. Stall tactics rarely work. If the media print or broadcast that you did not respond to their requests for information, the public may assume you’re guilty or that you have something to hide, which is not what you want.
Get help creating a statement and answers to the questions you may be asked by the press. In the heat of the moment, you may not think as clearly as usual. Enlisting the aid of experts who are objective and forward-thinking can help you to contain and manage the situation most effectively.
Crisis communication tip #2: Control contact with media and the public.
Don’t allow your staff members or team members to speak with the press about the situation. Ask that your family members and friends do not do so either.
Ideally, employees, vendors and others should have been advised not to speak to the media on your behalf. Perhaps they have even signed confidentiality agreements, as does everyone who works in our firm. However, it’s good to remind them of your policies.
Crisis communication tip #3: Take responsibility when appropriate.
There are times when it’s best to assume responsibility and quickly address what you are doing to rectify a situation. For example, if you sold a product that turns out to be faulty, consult a lawyer about what you should and should not say about it, but do address it. You can recall the product through news alerts that you send to the media and distribute through social media, if many have been sold. If only a few products have been sold, you can contact the customers directly and offer them a refund or a replacement of the product.
The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation, which can lead people to hire lawyers, investigate further and generally make a bigger deal of something that could have been kept in check with some simple communication.
Crisis communication tip #4: Listen.
Sometimes the best way to prevent a situation from becoming a crisis is to listen. Listen to people’s complaints and comments, even if there is nothing that can be done about them.
For example, if you have said something regrettable to someone who is now making a public issue of it, apologize to the person directly, which may make the situation go away: sometimes people just need to be heard.
If the issue continues to become more public, seek professional help to address the situation. This is not a time to wing it, and professionals can help you create a clear message and make a plan for damage control and containment.
Crisis communication tip #5: Take action.
Explain how you are taking action to address the situation. For example, if one of your staff members has said something inappropriate to someone, craft a specific response that explains why this is not in accordance with your company policy and how the employee is being reprimanded (or dismissed, in some cases). If you have implemented new policies due to this situation, explain what they are.
When crises arise, the most important thing to do is to not panic. Then, get the help you need to create a swift and thorough crisis communication plan.
This article was written by Lisa Elia, a Los Angeles-based media trainer, presentation trainer, communication expert and speaker. In addition to helping clients with crisis communication management and planning, she trains clients for media interviews, speeches, investor presentations and promotional videos. With more than 20 years of experience, Lisa has prepared clients for interviews with The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN, and hundreds of other outlets. Lisa has been interviewed and shared her expertise with national media outlets that include Inc., Fox News, Entertainment Tonight, E! Entertainment and many others.
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