Top 7 Ways To Survive A Public Relations Crisis
By Lee McCaskill
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Everyone wants to believe their company will never suffer the kind of public humiliation Ford and Firestone are battling now. Ignoring potential public image problems will not help you when your reputation is on the line. We all make mistakes. How you handle your mistakes says more about you and your company than how you handle your successes.
- Develop a contingency communication strategy BEFORE you need it.
Define your company’s potential "clay feet" and decide how you would handle a misstep. (Better yet, address the vulnerable issues before they become public knowledge.)
- Identify a single point of contact at the beginning of a crisis.
Tap one senior source in your organization to which to refer all media and investors. This person must be available, informed, and credible. Most of all, he or she must be brilliant under pressure and present a composed image at all times. Your PR firm can help you prepare this person to be cool under a media onslaught.
- Communicate internally.
The worst thing management can do in a crisis is hide from its employees. Keeping everyone informed of the steps being taken to solve the problem will minimize water-cooler gossip and maintain morale.
- Play an active role in the story.
Don't let the media freight train run you over. Communicate early, and often, with your investors and the public. Let everyone know you are on top of the problem, and committed to curing it as soon as possible. You don't have to detail your efforts or your findings every step of the way, but do keep an open line of communication so your voice may be heard amid the din.
- NEVER LIE.
It will always come back to haunt you. Your dishonesty will be remembered long after the crisis has passed. You are in the spotlight -- stand up and take the heat.
- Talk about the future.
Now is not the time to introduce a new product or service. You are not trying to deflect attention. You can, however, talk about the new procedures you are putting in place to prevent, or better prepare for, a similar problem. A crisis need not be the death knell of your business. Always project beyond the immediate.
- Practice the phrase: "The important thing to remember is..."
Fill in the blank with something positive about your organization. Use this line whenever you are asked about the crisis, before addressing the question at hand. "The important thing to remember is XYZ, Inc. has consistently demonstrated our committment to safety through all our years in business."
- Never say "No comment" or "Our attorneys have advised us."
Try: "It is too soon in our investigation to give you a thorough answer." Or, "We are consulting with top experts in the field on that very issue and expect to have a well-researched response soon."
Lee McCaskill, managing director of Kate Powell, Ink., is an expert in developing communication strategies for businesses at all levels. An image builder and positioning strategy specialist, she can help you respond proactively to stem the tide of negative consequences for your business in the event of a crisis. Contact Lee at or 760-280-7000
Article Submitted On: September 22, 2000