Jan 23 2014

It’s happened before and it will happen again. Someone posted something on social media that shouldn’t have been posted, an explosion at a warehouse or a scandal with a CEO. Crises are a part of running a business and it is better to be prepared for them instead of being caught off guard. There are several easy actions that can help a company better prepare for all types of crisis:

  • Have a team established ahead of time with set roles: Who will talk to the media, who will send out any press releases, who will inform employees? When these are created before a crisis, people will know who to turn to for information. There will be less confusion and little time wasted.
  • Make a list of all potential crises. Not all will be foreseeable, but you can make plans for likely crises and have drafts of statements or press releases available. This will help save time and help you control the situation as much as possible.
  • Have all employees’ phone numbers, from the CEO to the secretary, on one sheet of paper in the office. If someone needs to be contacted at all hours of the night or an alert needs to be sent out, it is important that all the numbers be in one place. Make note of who needs to be notified when an issue arises, whether that be a legal department, social team, or a client.
  • Make sure that several people have usernames and passwords. That way if the main user is on vacation, someone else can control the page/feed/comments and post/delete if required.

While these may seem like common sense, most companies do not think about these steps until after they are in crisis mode.

The Crisis has Hit. Now What?

Be proactive. Follow the 15/60 rule. If you are hit with a crisis, acknowledge it in the first 15 minutes and release a statement within 60 minutes. By doing this, a company can get ahead of a crisis and control some of the media. If the crisis is not public knowledge, the CEO will have to make the decision to take a chance with the consequences or intervene proactively.

Whoever is in charge needs to go see the crisis. If it is a post, get a screen shot. If it is an incident at a location, go to the location. This will help when creating a statement or a message to the public because the information will be more accurate then hearing a second hand account. When crafting a message, follow some of these simple tips:

  • Express sympathy/apologize if necessary by using “I”, “we”, and “us” to make the statement more personal.
  • Have no more than 3 key points that are short but still get the message across.
  • If possible, present a “plan” for prevention or how you plan on fixing the issue.
  • Saying “no comment” is never an option. If you don’t know, say so without speculating.

Most companies can go years without a crisis while others have a new one every week. While no one wants to be the center of a crisis, planning and thinking ahead can help shorten the lifespan and lessen the impact on a company. The more you can do in advance, the better you will be able to handle the situation.

For more Mambo blogs on Crisis Communications readiness read here.

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