5 Tips for Effective Crisis Communications
By Tony Manolatos & Bob Nelson
A crisis can surface at any time, and lately we've been reminded of how quickly problems can snowball and turn into PR disasters because of self-inflicted wounds.
We've seen a string of bad news from brands like Pepsi and United, and the White House is frequently in crisis mode. The running drama reminded us how challenging crisis communications is, so we're sharing five tips to help you when a crisis strikes.
1. Protect your brand
When you find yourself in crisis your instincts – and your lawyer – will tell you to minimize your offense and risk, and then run and hide until the storm blows over. All that does is make things worse. Getting ahead of the situation as quickly as possible will help minimize damage to your reputation and your bottom line. Warren Buffet famously said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”
2. Adhere to the four Cs of crisis communications
Think about what you would want to hear if you were on the receiving end of a crisis – be it a customer, the news media or the public – and then build your strategy and your messaging around the four Cs of crisis communication:
Answer questions asked of you. If you don't know the answer, say so, and then report back as soon as you have the information.
4. Don't lean on lawyers
Don't let lawyers edit away your compassion and your sincerity. A potential lawsuit is not as important as your brand. You absolutely should listen to your attorneys, but keep in mind their most important role is to minimize legal exposure, not maximize brand value. Your job is to balance the risks versus the rewards after quickly considering both.
5. Go beyond an apology
Have a plan and explain the steps you are going to take to ensure whatever happened never happens again, and then put that plan into action.
“People will forgive nearly anything – if you show remorse, you own what you did, and you promise not to do it anymore. It's really very simple. It's astounding when huge companies miss this. They listen too much to the lawyers, they talk in meaningless nonsense code language – “re-accommodate” was just made for memes – to minimize their offense and reduce their risk,” says Elizabeth Fitzsimons, Vice President of Marketing for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“United's ‘apology’ is one of the worst issued by a company in crisis. You don't run from how bad it is. A true leader would own it, share the outrage, show some shame and pledge to make it right.”
To review: American: 1 United: 0
Past experience tells us a crisis often can't effectively be managed internally. Our team of communications professionals has decades of experience and can provide critical support when it's needed. If you would like to learn more about dealing with a crisis or any Advertising or Public Relations topic, please feel free to call or email either of us directly:
Tony: 619.549.0137 email@example.com
Bob: 619.865.0281 firstname.lastname@example.org