Out of the Frying Pan but Not into the Fire – Planning for the Unthinkable!

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” – John F Kennedy, 35th U.S. President.

Crisis communication . . . What does it really mean? Many of us, especially in the communications industry, are familiar with this term – or at least we think we are. Simply recognizing a crisis, identifying a crisis management team and drafting a crisis management plan is not enough to ‘fix’ one when it happens. And to add fuel to the fire, having an inexperienced spokesperson who says all the wrong things at the wrong time can exacerbate the situation.

Now, back to the quote from the late John F Kennedy, a crisis can put anyone or any organization in a difficult and uncomfortable place; but it can also open the door for growth and trust, in both personal and professional relationships. Here are some guidelines to remember when dealing with a crisis – so you can make the best of it – if and when it happens.

Acknowledge, Apologize & Remain Calm
The first thing you should do is to contact your CEO and the chief of your public relations department when a crisis arises – enabling them to implement any crisis management plans that have been set in place. In any crisis situation, it is always important to recognize and acknowledge it. Even if the crisis is a minor one and involves an employee who engaged in misconduct – this one small act can trigger into a growing crisis, threatening the integrity and reputation of the organization, as in the recent Papa John’s Debacle. Publicizing an earnest apology to the public via various media platforms and remaining calm during the entire duration of the crisis can help minimize the situation. This lets the public know that you are aware of what happened and are doing everything that you can to contain the situation.

Provide Truthful Information
In a crisis, it is very important to keep this in mind: Tell it ALL, Tell it FAST, and Tell the TRUTH. Often, we conceal some information because we think they aren’t important and we only choose to disclose some on a need-to-know basis. However, in dealing with a crisis, it is imperative to provide full disclosure. Concealing any part of the information that is related to the crisis can trigger doubt, which can cause even the most well structured crisis management plans to backfire. Being the first to provide information also places you in a position of authority – instead of allowing the crisis to simmer and the media to catch on.

Offer Constructive Solutions
Who needs a crisis? Crises are not pleasant and more often than not, can be very disruptive. Unfortunately for us, they happen – especially when we least expect them to. Being able to provide or at least offer constructive solutions post-crisis helps to appease the public. Do not though, equate this to bribery – these solutions don’t always have to have monetary value, such as giving away free products. They can be as simple as making suitable policy or operational changes. In order to effectively move on and learn from any crisis is to offer solutions to the problem, after identifying them of course! What can be done to ensure that this never happens again? How can we improve to better serve our clients?

Give Assurance
Finally, the public wants to be assured and reassured that something like this won’t slip through the cracks and happen again. Let them know that you’ve learnt from the crisis and while mistakes do happen and sometimes accidentally, you will try your best to prevent them from reoccurring regardless by taking the necessary precautionary measures. This is an excellent opportunity for you to strengthen your client relationships by proving that you’re responsible, competent, dependable, adaptable in any situation, and more importantly, capable of growth – even in a crisis.

While riding out the storm during a crisis can be frustrating and sometimes intimidating, don’t let it get to you. Also, remember that not everyone will react the way you want them to, but at least, you’ve done your best and made the most out of it. And on a brighter note, at least now you’re prepared for the next crisis.

By Fiza Johari, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services.


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