It’s very natural to panic at times of crisis, and its natural to fumble and speak out of turn or even inappropriately when panicking. So I’ve pulled together a quick, easy to remember guide for communicating to the public in times of crisis.
Recently in Trinidad and Tobago, 3 organizations which will be referenced as case studies, experienced what may be deemed major tragedy:
- Bmobile faced an endorser charged with a criminal offence
- WIN TV faced an employee making public, racially obnoxious and violent statements
- The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service faced the death of 3 pedestrians as a result of a car accident involving a Police Officer, who was the driver
Following the initial action, non-action, statements and silence of these 3 organizations, the credibility of each one was questioned, and the brand damaged to some extent. Needless to say, there was room for improvement in the way each situation was handled.
Since we can’t exactly follow the beautiful path of crisis communication management set out by our big brothers in brand, I’m going to outline some basic steps that we should follow. I’ll keep it short since we have some pretty good references that add depth to our understanding, for instance Is Honesty Always the Best Policy, by Danielle Jones
1. Act immediately to gain a full understanding of the scope of the crisis. It may help to itemize and prioritize each issue that must be addressed.
2. Pull together your team, and define the strategy for communication around this crisis. Of course the strategy must be grounded in your organization’s brand values. The team may include a legal representative and other major stakeholders in the organization (CEO, person involved in crisis, Marketing Communications Manager/ Director). Keep this team to the smallest number of people possible.
3. Identify a trained spokesperson. Sometimes the head of the organization may not be the best person to speak on behalf of the company in times of crisis; determine who is the most capable, based on training and experience, and let him/her be the only person who addresses the issue.
4. Respond quickly, in a manner that is clear, concise and to the point. The speed of the response reduces the opportunity for the bacchanalists to speak on your behalf. If the company is wrong, admit it! Apologize. Acknowledge the impact of the crisis.
5. Re-establish credibility. This goes a bit deeper than firing a wayward employee, you want to dig into your brand values and demonstrate them in the eyes of the public. Show that you are still the brand they love, and not the brand affected by the crisis.