A crisis can happen to any company at any time. When it does your hard-earned reputation is at risk. Sometimes you can see a potential crisis coming, it slowly builds until an event – possibly minor in itself – explodes the issue and it becomes critical. Sometimes a crisis comes out of the blue. Whatever the crisis, being prepared is the key to minimising the negative impact a crisis may bring.
Ten Things You Should Do
- Gather the facts. Know what happened, do not speculate or allow others to speculate.
- Relay the known facts openly and honestly. If some facts are not yet known, say so and explain what is happening to discover them.
- Show humanity and concern for any injured or aggrieved parties. If possible ensure relatives and those directly concerned are contacted before making public announcements.
- Offer practical help if you can. Lawyers may argue that to offer money to an injured party is to admit guilt. But to show concern is a sign of humanity. Concern can be expressed via a hardship fund, help-line or similar temporary emergency channel. The words ‘without prejudice’ may keep the lawyers happy but creates an impression of defensiveness and unfeeling.
- Co-operate with investigators or regulatory authorities. They are only doing their job. Being obstructive will be interpreted as ‘something to hide’.
- Have a senior person as your authoritative spokesperson. Make sure this person is briefed continuously and maintain one consistent message.
- Brief all stakeholders. Employees and unions, shareholders, investors and brokers, trade bodies, the community, the media will all need to know the facts as soon as is possible.
- Have a dossier of relevant facts to hand that could support your case. Health and safety records, training practices, quality systems and accreditations, test reports and so on can help refute any early claims of negligence.
- Issue regular updates as more facts emerge. Tell the media or group concerned when the next statement will be available.
- Monitor the media and the web. This will help you see how the issue is being discussed and, if necessary, issue messages to reduce speculation, misreporting or mischief.
Five Things You Should Not Do
- Don’t speculate about events or causes. This will be reported and repeated as fact and will be difficult to erase.
- If you adopt the ‘No comment’ approach, the press will find comment from elsewhere – possibly, for the cost of a few pints – from the person you sacked last week.
- Don’t speak ill of any injured party. Naturally, sympathy is always with the victim so don’t shift blame. Formal proceedings will uncover true causes and events leading up to the crisis.
- Don’t put out contradictory messages. Remember what you say will be recorded or written down. Any contradiction will be exploited by sharp journalists.
- Don’t go on holiday while it blows over! This is perhaps perceived to be one of the greatest sins of all. Be prepared to abandon your family holiday if you are already away – you can always go on another one.