Crises come unexpectedly. There might be plenty of work on your desk. You might be tired after you went out to a concert the night before or after you spent the night taking care of your sick child. Crises don't care. Crises might show up the minute you least expect them.
It is important that you train your built-in antennas. Not every crisis starts with a big bang like an accident or an earthquake. There are also many creeping crises, especially in politics. Use your inner sensors, train them, listen to them, decide and act.
If you have a rapid response plan in your drawer it is way easier for you to act in a thought through way. But if you have never bothered reading it before the crisis turned up don't even think about reading it the moment when shit hit the vent. It's way too late then. Make sure you have read it BEFORE a crisis turns up.
Those of you who are trained journalists might find it easier to hit the right tone in front of journalists. But it is not a guarantee to react in an appropriate way - especially when we are talking about the rise of a shitstorm that develops its own dynamics. As a matter of fact every crisis means enormous mental stress that you will find hard to deal with. You might react differently than normal. The better you are prepared the easier you will find it to deal with the situation.
But let's just quickly define what a crisis is.
1) A company, politician or party is perceived in a negative light.
2) Business activity is disrupted.
3) Reputation, brand and jobs are in danger.
"Never let a good crisis go to waste"
Winston Churchill after the Second World War
But how should that work? How could a crisis be turned into a chance?
Let's have a closer look at what you should NOT do.
- Waiting for too long
- Ostrich tactics
- No reaction
- Dead man
- Impulsive Behaviour
- Criticism not taken seriously
- Dishonest practices
- Salami tactics
- Glossing over
- Uncertain promises
- Uncertain forcasts
- Not taking responsibility
- Too elaborate strategies
- Dishonest practices
After we shed light on the wrong reaction let's have a look at the RIGHT reaction:
- Rapid Response
- Active, pro-active behaviour
- Transparent Information
- Reliable. Authentic, Empathic Messages
- Emotional Messages
-Responsibility for what has happened
- Willingness to learn
Emails or phone calls are no adaquate way to react. Use the right channels to reach your target group. Paid media can always be an option.
Respond within the first half hour. Inform your stakeholders in the right order.
Depending on the nature of the crisis, a first public reaction may be: We take the matter seriously. We are in the process of clarifying the matter.
A comprehensive reaction can be made later. But DO give a first rapide response. Actively approach the media wherever possible. Keep in mind that your own press release might be an appropriate means to react too. Once the storyline is told and the public has received this one message it is hard to turn things. The later you start, the harder it will be to deal with the crisis.
Create your rapid response plan before it's too late.