Engaging Media in a Crisis
Every business will face a PR crisis at some point in its history. But the way organisations handle a bad situation can often make or break a brand.
Treating reporters as the enemy or blocking them, no matter how aggressive or confrontational they might be, won't make you look good and it won’t stop the story. That’s why it pays to be proactive, transparent and accountable.
If you don’t want to end up on a list of worst PR disasters, let alone the front page of tomorrow's newspaper, consider these golden rules when a crisis strikes.
Tell the truth, tell it early, tell it often. First off, don’t try to cover up the PR crisis, it will only worsen the damage. Instead, manage the situation and show that you are willing to communicate. Get a statement out within 15 minutes of the crisis. Brief media on what you do know and keep reminding them of the core facts. Pump out factual, relevant information and updates regularly.
Pick the panic. Work out what people are worried about or angry about, even if it's irrational, and address those concerns. Forget the technical aspects of the crisis, focus on the emotions.
Apologise and keep apologising. A well-crafted, authentic apology shows you 'get it' and gives you the right to speak. Not doing so adds fuel to the fire and delays changing the narrative. Lawyers will try to stop you but you can acknowledge the public's concern without creating a legal liability.
Respect the media's role as part of the solution, they are not your enemy. Work with reporters to get critical information to your stakeholders, they are after a story, not a scalp. If you don’t communicate with reporters they’ll tell the story their way and your voice will be lost.
Plan for the inevitable. About 83 per cent of organisations will face a crisis and it will wipe up to 30 per cent off the bottom line. That’s why every organisations needs to have a crisis plan ready to roll.
Develop credible, agile spokespeople. Communicating to the media in a crisis is one of the toughest challenges a leader will face, but it is part of the job description. Get the tools you need before you need them.
Don't play the blame game and never blame the victim. It always backfires and makes you look bad. Focus on your reputation and being part of the solution.