Everyone makes mistakes. We have been taught this from a very young age. In many situations, mistakes are understandable and easily handled. However, they do tend to make situations more difficult, and often, more complicated. When your company is confronted with a crisis, there is rarely any leg room for added complications. Addressing possible mistakes or pitfalls in crisis management is integral to the process. Although you cannot see into the future, there are a number of common pitfalls that may be stealthily avoided with the right amount of preparation, communication and teamwork.
No Action Plan
In order to tackle a crisis head-on in an organized and efficient manner, you must create an action plan. Just as sports teams don’t enter the field or the court without a game plan, your company cannot properly handle a crisis without a detailed plan of attack. Assign concrete roles and responsibilities, and then sit down as a team to discuss timely, concise and on-brand messaging regarding the event in question. Without an action plan, crisis management will quickly devolve into chaos, only increasing your company’s chances of a hurt reputation.
In the event of a crisis, timing is key. On the one hand, waiting too long to address the issue may lead to distrust and skepticism from the general public. Depending on company size, this response may even include employees. On the other hand, responding too quickly creates more room for mistakes in communication. Take enough time to meet with your crisis team, and make sure everyone is on the same page before moving forward with the management process.
Advancements in technology can be as harmful as they are useful. While social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook may serve as important channels through which appropriate crisis communication travels, they are easily accessible by anyone, anywhere. Make sure all messaging related to the crisis is being carefully monitored by your team’s information gatherer, preferably a PR professional or an individual with a strong understanding of the shifting media landscape.
During a crisis, various media outlets will pressure your company for updates, news and insider information. In order to avoid becoming the cover of the nearest tabloid, it is important that your crisis management team politely and patiently decline offers to comment unless pre-approved messaging has been created. A PR professional who is trained in media relations is of the utmost importance when dealing with media pressure, as they may help your company deflect and re-message important points of interest within the crisis.
There will always be the desire to put a face to a crisis. It is, in fact, essential to have a designated team member who will serve as the bearer of information to the general public. This person must be clear, organized, confident and trustworthy. An under-prepared or discombobulated spokesperson will reflect poorly on your company, especially in the event of an encounter with the media. Sound bites last forever, and it is important to make sure those who give them know the proper way to present and discuss the topic at hand.
Problems with Crowd Control
One of the easiest ways to find yourself amidst chaos is to lose control of your audience. Do not let your spokesperson be overwhelmed by too many reporters at once, and do not let the messaging get out of hand or off-brand. It may be tempting to address every question and every comment. Limit yourself. There is no need to entertain too much media attention that can harm rather than help your company in the long run.
In 2006, John was honored as “Agency Executive of the Year” by PRNews after he served as
a first responder during hurricanes Katrina and Rita — from evacuation of the city to a military
blockade and the aftermath — for both the tourism industry for New Orleans and the Louisiana
Office of Tourism. He led the only on-site communication operation and media center that
managed more than $400 million in media scrutiny in war-like conditions.
In 2010, John and his team created the strategy and led the team that managed the state
Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism’s response to the BP oil spill. That effort
reshaped public perception and preserved Louisiana’s $9.4 billion tourism industry.
His agency, DEVENEY, was named PR News’ Firm of the Year in 2013 and one of PRWeek’s
Top 5 Boutique PR Firms in 2004, 2016 and 2017. John is the only professional to ever merit
the lifetime achievement recognition of being inducted as both a Fellow PRSA and an IABC
Fellow—as well as PRNews Hall of Fame.