Editor’s Note: This post ran Monday, April 15th, before the Boston bombings.
By Patty Briguglio, CEO, MMI Public Relations
When a crisis hits – and believe me, they always do – if one of my clients is in the eye of the storm, I have three critical rules for them to follow:
- Tell it all.
- Tell it fast.
- Tell the truth.
These cardinal rules not only protect my clients from the firestorm that inevitably results when information is hidden, twisted or withheld, but they protect and preserve the relationships that are critical to organizations’ future wellbeing and success.
When a crisis unfolds, keeping these rules in mind, the most important thing that you or your company manager can do in the first hour is refer to your crisis plan and follow the steps that you have already outlined. An effective plan will have been customized for your company and its needs, taking into consideration the industry you work in and your company’s culture.
One of the most important benefits of having and following a well-crafted crisis plan that has been prepared ahead of time is that it allows your company to manage the media during a crisis rather than having the media manage you. A good crisis management plan will include talking points for your spokesperson to provide during conversations with the media, making it easy for them to cover all salient points and keep a reporter from guiding them off topic.
Do not wait for the journalist to ask the questions and hope for the best. Instead, ask yourself who will read, hear or see the story, and what message you want to convey to them. Then take control of the interview. As part of preparing your plan, rehearse your key message and ask someone in your company to throw “tough” questions at you. Otherwise, during the actual interview, you might get caught up in the moment and say something you may regret.
Having a well-constructed plan in place prior to a crisis will help your entire company know how to respond and what each of their responsibilities is during the crisis. Instead of being at a loss for what to do or how to respond, employees informed of the crisis plan will know exactly what to do to be effective. Crisis plans are the perfect place to designate your company’s spokesperson. When that designation is made, there will be no confusion about who is the proper person to speak to the media. This way, no one will speak out of turn or give misinformation.
The first hour after a crisis strikes is critically important to helping your company effectively manage itself and the results that will follow the crisis. That critical hour will go much more smoothly and be more effective with a crisis plan that has been well-laid out and shared with your company’s employees long before any trouble arises. Having a plan reduces stress and takes any mystery out of wondering who should be representing your company and what will happen next.
Sticking to my three cardinal rules as well as following your crisis plan will be your best solution for mitigating any damage and reducing the scope of any crisis.