Everyone is talking about risk management and how the lack of being prepared can adversely negate the best marketing efforts if the right plans are not in place—but besides the plan, the right people are also important.
When considering situations that could shut a company down, the crises imagined would be major ones. In such cases involving the fate of the company, your public needs to hear from the top person. In most instances, that would be the President and CEO.
Besides the ability to respond quickly, getting the proper message across is also critical.Media training for the worst-case scenario for a crisis PR situation you’ve identified is extremely important. If there’s a reputable firm that can provide this, now would be the time to bring them in. If not, follow the next action steps:
Prepare questions you expect and anticipate for the scenarios you’ve identified
Then prepare short responses for these questions. Remember that in most dire situations, communicating assurances and sympathy are key.
Videotape a mock interview with your CEO and review the session afterward together
What’s important are responses that assure people that the issue is important to the company and being responsibly handled as quickly as possible.
When asked a negative question, the CEO should not repeat the negativity in his/her response
If the question was, “Were you shocked by the number of deaths?”, the incorrect response would be, “Yes, I was shocked by the number of deaths.” It’s more appropriate to quickly acknowledge the tragedy and transition as quickly as possible to the actions being taken. A response like, “Yes and that is why we’re taking this action to….” would be better.
Expressing sympathy for those affected is always good if it can be done without admitting responsibility
Most of all, the focus of the CEO’s response should be one of concern and of how the crisis is being handled. The intent should be to assure everyone concerned that the issue is being properly managed and under control. Of course, in a real-world situation, the CEO should not be reading any of the suggested responses either.
The worst-case scenarios have been fleshed out and a plan as to who will manage the messaging and who your different publics are has been determined. Yet, in spite of the odds, the crisis you hoped would never come has arrived.
Your team needs to be able to mobilize immediately
Be proactive with the news media and try to stay ahead of them and your critics. Anticipate what your harshest critics will likely say or do and pre-empt them. It will make you appear to be less defensive and pro-active. Most of all, stick to positive actions.
Communicate directly with your key audiences as often as necessary
Share with them your actions and defuse any rumors or misstatements that were made by critics. Your strongest allies will often rise in your defense with no prompting.
After the crisis has passed, conduct a post-session and determine what worked and what could be improved
Most of all, keep revisiting the possibility of a crisis on a regular basis as that could change.