So it turns out, not EVERY public relations pro enjoys handling a good old fashioned crisis. Maybe it’s the stress. Or uncertainty. Hell, maybe it’s the potential business-killing snafu that lurks around every corner.
I get it; none of that sounds like stuff you want on your plate. But that’s no reason to be ill prepared when it comes to crisis communications. It’s critical to have a plan for how to handle issues before they get out of control.
With that in mind, we decided to create a fun little crisis – based on experience as reporters, in-house PR pros and as agency staffers – for you to navigate without having to worry about actually ruining your company’s reputation. Just hit “Play Now,” to get started.
Your company unexpectedly has laid off 200 people in your community where it’s the major employer.
You decide to…
Good decision. It’s not happy news, but it’s best to be honest and transparent from the get go.
Yikes! Bad call. You’re now on the defensive. A reporter called, but employees only have rumors.
F&*!. Your CEO’s email inbox is flooded with employees who have called your bluff. They’re already upset and now you’ve created more distrust.
Nailed it. Your employees now have the same information and it’s the stuff they care about. People are upset, but they can start to accept it.
Be honest with your employees. They may not like it but they can start to understand and accept it. The news story has valuable context and fair headline.
Can we get a redo?
The reporter wrote a one-sided, negative story with no context from the company. Be prepared for continuous negative follow-up stories.
Oh, man. Really?
Now you’ve done it. Several employees go to the media, which takes a one-sided approach to the story.
This is as close to a save as you’ll get.
Quickly follow up with a press release (or even better, go directly to a trusted reporter) to proactively control the message.
It’s always tempting to play the wait-and-see game with reporters. Resist. Get the news out, keeping your message clear, honest, forward-looking and empathetic.
C’mon, you couldn’t think that was the end could you?
You’re now taking media calls and prepping for negative, one-sided stories. Don’t forget about the media. Ever.
Keeping small crises small
It’s the dozens of issues companies manage daily such as layoffs, employees’ legal issues and acquisitions that give most of us PR pros ulcers. You know, the stuff our operations colleagues say is “just business.”
I’ve repeatedly seen company leaders and communications teams make early missteps surrounding these types of issues. Consistently it boils down to several common issues causing problems.
4 crisis communications mistakes to avoid
The reason for these public gaffes, 90 percent of the time, is caused by one or more of these four common mistakes:
ForgettingChoosing not to communicate effectively with your employees first.
- Telling yourself the news won’t leak.
- Opting to react to employee/reporter inquiries rather than controlling the message.
- A lack of honesty.
Of course, crisis communications is more nuanced than stated here, with countless variables that can change outcomes and public perception in a matter of minutes.
So, for those of you who want more detailed crisis communications strategy, watch our blog; we’ll be posting more tips and tricks for managing the messes companies will continue to make.