I recently counseled an executive who called because she feared negative media coverage for her organization after an employee was arrested at the workplace for sickening behavior on the internet. Although the alleged crime was committed elsewhere, it was shocking enough to generate media attention. When she reached out, she expressed concern that if reporters showed up, she wouldn’t know what to do.
Her concern was well-founded. Our agency has received scores of calls like this, but usually the media has already arrived.
A public relations crisis is difficult to weather without an established road map for managing an issue. When an incident erupts and the rhythm of an organization is interrupted, good decisions are among the first casualties. Even the smartest business executives are prone to career-ending missteps when faced with the media spotlight.
So what’s the solution?
Let’s start with what’s not the solution: a three-inch binder with step-by-step instructions. During a crisis, people don’t consult written instructions, they make decisions based on training and instinct. That simple fact of human nature should guide your planning.
An effective planning process will address the importance of responsiveness and moving quickly under pressure. Media interaction is another key component, but it’s often over-emphasized; regulatory and political impacts are potentially more damaging and should be evaluated immediately.
Good planning also helps you to express real empathy in times of tragedy without walking the plank of responsibility. And yes, there really are ways to make bad news go away.
Without proper training and a purposeful planning process, it’s easy for key elements like those listed above to be neglected when an incident occurs.
The bottom line is this: If you haven’t planned for a crisis, why not? Anything can happen and often does – even to good companies. Combine comprehensive training with your instincts and you are prepared for whatever comes your way.
Whether you are just beginning to think about crisis planning or have a process in place that needs further scrutiny, we can help ensure you’re prepared for the unexpected and ready to defend your organization.