How to handle a crisis and the media
Just when you think everything is rolling along nicely…something goes wrong. How you deal with a crisis can make or break your business. Reputation takes years to establish but a crisis played out in the media can squash a company within hours or days. However, handle a crisis and the media well and you could give your reputation a boost. So, how should you react when the worst happens, and the journalists are at your door?
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Crises can come in all shapes and sizes: your business premises are threatened by fire; you may have to make a large number of redundancies; a client takes you to court; or you suffer a major data protection breach.
While none of these things are nice to think about you can prepare a crisis communications plan to give you a head start. Having simple things agreed in advance, like who is your company spokesperson, will put you on the front foot. Start by thinking about the possible threats to your business and how you would react.
When the crisis is yours you need to own it. If you don’t readily provide the media with the facts then they’ll find information from elsewhere; whether it is accurate, authoritative or otherwise. Speak to the media, even if you don’t have a lot of information to hand in the first instance. Be brave and deliver your key messages without breaking under the pressure.
Prepare a statement
There are three elements to an effective media statement in a crisis:
1. Acknowledge there is an issue. This may include offering sympathies if appropriate. Starting your statement by showing you are compassionate will put you in a good light.
2. State that you are doing what you can to put things right.
3. Communicate your key messages to move the story on. This may include what investigations or processes are happening next.
No comment is not an option
Failing to communicate will make it look like you have something to hide. Even in the heat of a crisis, there should be a nominated spokesperson to speak to the media. If not, they’ll go elsewhere for information and you lose control of the facts around your crisis.
Inform your staff
At the same time as briefing the media you need to make sure your staff are well informed about the crisis. The media may go to them for eyewitness accounts or information. If they don’t know what’s happening, rumours could start to fly and they may become unhappy with the situation – then you have another problem to add to the crisis. Make sure your staff know the facts and ask them to point journalists in the direction of the press office.
Share the facts as you know them and don’t make things up or speculate. This will come back to bite you.
Use your own communications channels
Make use of your own website and social media to acknowledge that there is a crisis and share your statement. This will help to back-up the information you are sharing with the media and inform anyone who comes to your website, Twitter or Facebook direct to find out what’s happening. Think about your audience and stakeholders and share information in the right way to reach those groups. The worst thing you can do in a crisis is create an information void.
If you would like help preparing a crisis communications plan for your business or crisis media training for your staff, then give us a call. We have years of experience working both in the media and in PR during emergencies and disaster recovery, so we have plenty of first-hand experience to help your business prepare.