Let’s go back in time a few years, remember the days of that big Domino’s Pizza crisis? Yeah, the one where those two weirdo employees at a Domino’s joint tampered with the food and were caught because they thought posting their shenanigans on YouTube was a great idea? Well that was terrible for Domino’s, but it’s an awesome learning experience for us!
In today’s world, a crisis can happen overnight, and often times even quicker due to social media and online communication. When something goes wrong, it isn’t kept a secret for long. According to Marc Schiller, the worst thing about the speed at which crises can travel is that in “times of crisis, while corporate communication executives are preparing manicured statements, customers are [simultaneously] blogging, e-mailing and posting photos out of rage and desperation because the very people who should be listening to them aren’t”.
So what do we do as PR professionals? Just give up? Fortunately, there are ways to take crisis situations into our own hands and lead ourselves and our organizations out of them.
- Timeliness: With social media and the internet at our disposal, there is no reason that we shouldn’t communicate to our key publics quickly. How quickly? ASAP, acknowledge the crisis – assuming it’s grown into a big issue already – and inform your key publics of what you are doing now in order to solve the problem and how and when things should be taken care of.
- Honesty: Assuming that you’re working with a large organization or someone of high importance, than the best thing to do in order to steer yourself out of a crisis is to be honest. Don’t try to hide anything from your publics, if questions are being asked answer them to your best ability, meaning don’t give away information that will condemn you or make your situation worse. Never lie, never BS because people can read through it easily. Stay transparent, be available, communicate consistently and things will go much smoother.
- Be prepared: The funny thing with many organizations in particular is that often times they think that nothing will ever go wrong. Well that’s just plain dumb. As PR professionals we understand that whatever can happen, will happen, so it’s important to plan ahead.
- Identify your target audience. Whether it be college students or stay at home moms, know who your key public is and more importantly, know what the most efficient way to communicate to them. Utilize these means of communication in oder to timely and honestly talk things out with your main audience.
- Have a crisis team. If you’re able, delegate a team of seasoned individuals who can get together quickly during a crisis and smooth things over.
- Develop holding statements and prepare key messages. Before a crisis happens, it’s a wise decision to have pre-planned holding statements that can be used instantly, without a second thought, the moment a crisis comes your way. Generate a few holding statements that fit various situations: one for a crisis in which individuals are hurt, statements that speak on behalf of health or safety issues, etc. Having these prepared before a major crisis can be the difference between a major headache and a stress-free experience.
The most important thing about crisis communication is reminding yourself that it isn’t if something will happen, it’s when. Being prepared ahead of time will make crisis communication much more effective.