Crisis? What crisis? | Tips for crisis communications

 

How to handle crisis communications & media enquiries if you don’t have a PR agency

 

You’ve heard the sayings before – ‘all publicity is good publicity’, or ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’, or some other variation of this.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case because negative publicity has the potential to harm an organisation’s reputation, which could have an adverse impact on things like public trust in your brand or products. In turn, this could hit sales and your bottom line.

So, imagine the scenario where something has happened and you get a call or email from a journalist looking for a response. What do you do? How would you handle it?

Well, here are our tips for crisis communications and handling such media enquiries if you don’t have a PR agency: 

  • The first rule of crisis communications is to stay calm.
  • Establish all the facts – liaise with the media to understand the story from their perspective, what information they have and what information they want from you.
  • Manage the response with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, committed time and focused attention of senior management and then speak to the relevant people to compile the necessary information.
  • If possible, provide the reporter with an ‘off-the-record briefing’ so they understand the full picture
    • Prior to this time, the only information the journalist will have about the crisis is from the person or organisation making the complaint or negative comment about your organisation – they may take a different approach if they have the full details
    • If the journalist decides to run with the story, work to draft a formal statement
  • Never respond to the media with ‘no comment’. There should always be a comment, even if it’s something about investigating the claims/complaints/allegations made
  • Acknowledge the crisis if there is one
  • Apologise if required and accept if a mistake has been made
  • Don’t blame the media for your problems
  • Monitor the media about what is being said
  • Don’t give in to speculation

 

Social media

While the above deals with the traditional media, what would you do if an allegation of complaint came via social media?

Well, much of the above still applies, but the main difference is around dealing with the complainant away from the public sphere, so you can manage the issue in private. This ensures other social media users are not monitoring your conversation. For example, on Twitter that would be getting the complainant to send you a Direct Message and then dealing with the issue there.

Additionally, when dealing with complainants, you would take into account their social presence. If they have a small social following, you would not want to take steps to elevate their position and give them a voice to a wider audience.