Nearly every organization at some point will have to deal with adversity – whether it’s a minor incident barely attracting media attention or a major event that makes national headlines and appears across the internet. Having a detailed plan in place in advance of a crisis is imperative and can ultimately determine the outcome in effectively managing a response.
The moment a crisis hits, Detroit-area Marx Layne & Company, a leading public relations, digital media and crisis management firm, suggests three immediate steps entities should follow:
- Activate your crisis response team. Having a core team in place (complete with 24/7 contact information), before a disaster strikes, is crucial. A crisis response team is responsible for information gathering; ensuring safety, as applicable; communication to staff and other internal and external audiences; and, making strategic decisions as a crisis and its response unfolds. Also, identify and designate internal and external spokespersons, which may include legal or public relations counsel.
- Establish or remind about protocol. The early hours of a public relations crisis can be confusing, as information—and responses—stream in, especially in today’s era of social media. Make certain you have an authorized chain of response for the news media, as well as vendors, suppliers, business leaders and elected officials. Staff should be instructed to not discuss the incident with others or post on social media, and to never comment directly to the media, but, instead, refer them to a designated contact.
- Develop a holding statement to buy time. The media can be persistent in trying to uncover details about an incident. Direct communication and a carefully crafted standby statement is your first line of reputation defense. It affords the opportunity to avoid the damaging “no comment” response, while allowing time for more complete information gathering and development of a more comprehensive communications strategy.