According to the Institute for Crisis Management, the majority of crises are of the “smoldering” type, meaning that a potentially damaging condition is known to one or more people.
Less than 25% are events that occur suddenly with little warning, such as natural disasters and accidents.
If something is smoldering at your agency or with one of your clients, deal with it now because chances are it won’t go away and may get much worse if neglected.
When a crisis strikes, those charged with managing it should have three primary objectives:
- Maintain control of the message
- Minimize damage
- Achieve accurate and balanced coverage through the news media and Internet
Having managed communications in a variety of crisis situations over the years, the following are tips I’ve found that apply to any crisis:
• Tell what you know and can legally disclose as soon as possible.
• Tell the truth.
• Demonstrate concern for those affected.
• Emphasize the positive, when appropriate. For example, if you’re dealing with layoffs, emphasize how many jobs are being saved by this action and explain what your company is doing to help those who are losing their jobs.
• Give updates as soon as new information is available and confirmed.
• Seek third-party support to add credibility to your position.
How well your team manages a crisis, especially in the early stages, could affect your organization’s credibility and reputation for month or even years.
Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.