At some point, almost every business will face a crisis. Sometimes you are dealing with a mess of your own making, while others arise due to circumstances completely beyond your control. Your response to the situation and your ability to communicate effectively can have a much bigger impact on public perception that whatever happened in the first place. Here are the 5 most important crisis response strategies.
1 – Put Monitoring in Place Before the Disaster
You can’t effectively respond to a bad situation if you don’t know what’s happening and who’s talking about it. Get proactive by implementing software that can alert you of negative mentions, and identify the journalists, outlets, customers, or others who are publishing articles or commenting on the situation. Be sure that you have the capability to analyze the impact of coverage or comments so that you can respond with the appropriate intensity.
2 – Really Understand the Problem Before You Comment
There can be tremendous pressure to respond immediately, and time is of the essence, but it is never a good idea to make a statement on something before you understand all of the facts. Speak to any involved employees, customers, or other stakeholders so that you are clear about exactly what happened and what information has been published, and what, if anything, has yet to come to light. You might put out a “holding statement” that simply says you are aware of the situation and will offer more information as quickly as possible.
3 – Focus on What Really Matters
It can be tempting to respond to a crisis by sharing every detail, but keep in mind that reputation management is about sharing what the public needs to know, not what you want to say. Your best bet is to provide just enough information to the broad audience that they understand your response, while giving a greater level of detail to those who are actually impacted by the problem.
4 - Be Honest
The facts are what they are and nothing good can come from outright lies. You should work with the assumption that the truth will come to light, regardless of what you say, so don’t destroy your reputation with dishonesty. The public will forgive mistakes and failures much more quickly then they will denial of the truth. Of course, it is also important to only say what you know to be true. “I don’t know,” is a perfectly valid response. Don’t speculate, make excuses, point fingers or play semantics. Simply state that you don’t know and explain how you will find the answers.
5 – Learn from the Situation
Post crisis analysis is critical to improving your response to the next situation. Questions like, “How could we have prevented this?” and, “What can we do better next time?” need to be asked and answered. It is also important to monitor how the situation impacted your brand long after it has subsided. Did you gain or lose followers in social media? Did engagement return to normal? What actions can you take to counter the negative sentiment with positive? Can you enlist the help of influencers to rebuild your good reputation?
In politics, they say that the cover up is worse than the crime. When it comes to PR, don’t let your response to a bad situation serve to make it worse. You only get one opportunity to get things right when responding to a crisis, so be prepared and plan ahead.