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What NOT to do in a crisis

Crises management and communications during a crisis situation takes a best practice approach that will help alleviate any fall out or further PR disasters. Yet many companies still do not manage to get it right. In this blog I look at 5 of the communication No No’s that any Public Relations team or corporate communicators can learn from. 


1.Don’t shoot from the hip.

Until you have all the facts on the table you will be unable to make an informed decision of how to act and respond to your stakeholders. Resist the temptation to assume you have all the facts. Make sure you double check what the actual “real” cause of the crises is. There are many cases where the actual cause of the crisis has been misinterpreted, causing further miscommunication and a public relations nightmare. Your first priority is to find all the facts quickly, analyse them and determine what the true nature of the crises is. 

2.Assume the media will support you.

Remember that the media support the underdogs – those who are perceived to be “injured” or deeply affected by the crises. Media will believe eyewitness and public testimony over corporate speak any day. If you did nothing wrong, state the facts, show evidence and prove honestly and openly what happened. If you were at fault, resist the temptation to cover it up or blatantly lie. But be ready for the onslaught of criticism and be prepared to admit fault where it is due. This is also where it is absolutely vital that the nanosecond you know about the crisis, get all the facts together and be prepared to tackle some of the hard to tackle issues – promptly and honestly. You will be remembered for how you react to the situation.  

3.I didn’t see it coming.

Sometimes public relations and corporate communications professionals are the last to know about a key business decision or change that may affect the reputation of your company. It is your role to stay on top of what is happening in your organization. If you are to advise your company properly, you need to know what the likely crisis scenarios are. Usually your CEO and key decision makers will have done this. Ask them to be part of that process or at the very least have sight of the document. You also need to gather external intelligence which will inform you of an impending situation. Rumblings from customers, criticism from the industry, media queries/articles, changes to accounting systems etc., and you need to be scanning for this information 24x7.

4.No one is available for comment.

Honestly this is just bull. You need to be ready for a crisis, any crisis, anytime. You need to have more than one spokesperson who will make him or herself available in case one is away at the time. Even if your CEO is on holiday if he or she is the only spokesperson they must be contactable during a crisis situation. After all a reputational risk is a threat to the survival of your company.   

5.Aggression and bullying will make it go away.

This just does not work. There is a big difference between being authoritative versus being aggressive. No matter how much advertising you spend with a media outlet, if you try to bully the media you will just be digging a bigger hole for yourself. Always remain focused on the truth and the facts of the situation. Do not use emotive bullying to get the media to do what you want.  Be honest, show concern and allow for interaction with all your important audiences including the media.  




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