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When it comes to handling a crisis, it’s not a question of “if,” it’s a matter of when and how. No company is crisis-proof, because a crisis can occur at any time for any number of reasons. A company can be the victim of a crisis, the unintended victim of a crisis, or the manufacturer of a crisis. Regardless of the problem’s source, the results are often just as devastating and damaging if a crisis is handled poorly.

A crisis is any natural or manmade threat that can potentially harm a company. The range of crises that can affect an organization is vast and wide—including severe weather, computer hacks, or terrorism to product malfunctions, ill-advised social media posts, poor customer service, financial mismanagement and inappropriate relationships. No company is too large or too small to face a crisis; and no matter the size of an organization, having a crisis response and crisis communication plan in place is mandatory.

The recent parade of poorly handled crises by large multinational corporations has been astonishing; most of them the result of self-inflicted wounds and a refusal to follow some basic Crisis Communication rules that should be obvious.

Rule #1: People First

Policies and procedures do not take priority over the importance of people and their safety. No matter what has happened and how badly things have gone or how much money has been lost, any and all remarks to the public must begin with an acknowledgement of the people who have been hurt, harmed, injured, targeted or negatively impacted. 

Rule #2: Tell the Truth… Fast

During a crisis, when people don’t have information, they create it. Good, bad or ugly, any information and communication voids will be filled with rumors and speculation, which are difficult to control and impossible to contain. If the organization at the core of the crisis doesn’t tell its own story, someone else will—to the company’s detriment.

Rule #3: Take Responsibility and Don’t Blame Others

The reason many companies fail the crisis test is because their leadership is afraid to take responsibility for what has gone wrong, lest it be seen as an admission of guilt that can later be used against them in a court of law. The problem is that lawsuits often take years, but the court of public opinion—fueled by traditional media and social media—requires an immediate reaction and an immediate response. Blaming the victim or saying nothing at all are guaranteed to fail.

Crisis Situations are unpredictable, but not unexpected. If your organization is experiencing a Crisis or wants to be prepared for a Crisis, contact the PR PROS team today at (919) 829-5951.