Successful crisis management is predicated on a solid preparation before things turn sour. Being able to identify potential issues that can arise and having a well-thought plan in place to tackle those issues can be the difference between reputational disaster and turning a negative event into a positive message about your company.
Here are five things you can do to ensure that when the next crisis hits, you have the tools in place to turn a disaster into a branding opportunity:
Prepare a repeatable process for crisis communications. During a crisis, consistency and clarity in communication is key; all communications from the organization need to be delivering the same message while following the same set of guidelines. It’s important to have the PR person, team or individuals well versed in the guidelines and approaches to developing the crisis message.
Having a process in place that can be used again and again may contribute to establishing best practices for keeping clear message. We live in a world where people can instantly see how you respond to a crisis. This makes a consistent approach even more crucial.
Prepare the CEO. A CEO of a company in crisis is especially vulnerable, as he/she can feel like their personal reputation is at stake. There could be a large amount of media attention, which may feel like an attack on the leader of the company. The best case scenarios involve CEOs who acknowledge the crisis and address it promptly and firmly. Therefore, it’s imperative to prepare the CEO for crisis situations to avoid him or her from going on the defensive rather than addressing the problem.
Look at crises from an outsider’s perspective. A crisis can inevitably bring out strong emotions. And an immediate human response may be fight or flight, or freeze up, for that matter. However, the best way to handle a crisis would be to use the situation as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your consumer by practicing empathy. Listen to what people are saying and put yourself in their shoes. Your response will resonate better with your consumers, if you’re able respond with an empathetic ear.
Have a list of actions to take in the event of a crisis. Be specific. General responses won’t cut it. People want to know the specifics of what actions you are going to take. Being vague will only cause further doubt and mistrust. Make a point to lay out a catalog of policies and actions that highlight your company’s commitment to the issues, whether it be data security, product safety, workplace harassment, and so forth.
With a well-prepared list in advance, you can respond quickly and implement the necessary actions immediately, signaling to the public your commitment to doing the right thing.
Learn how to apologize. A bad thing to do during a crisis is issue a half-hearted or unauthentic apology. People will see right through it. It doesn’t always have to be an admittance of guilt (if there is none); even an acknowledgement and sincere regret of the situation can go a long way in some scenarios. However, when a situation warrants an apology, make sure that’s what you do.