What are the things to remember in a crisis?

05/10/2016

It’s easier said than done in a crisis. But when an unwanted media storm breaks over you, keeping a level head is the most important thing of all. Seeing negative headlines about an organisation or project you believe in can be hard to take. In such circumstances, it’s natural to be upset.

So the first priority is to keep a cool head. Emotion leads to mistakes. It can mean an over-hasty response, intemperate language and the risk of a slanging match – rather than focusing on positives which will start to counter any reputational damage.

Work out as soon as possible what the true picture is and get it down in writing to ensure a consistent message. Share it promptly with anyone who needs to know (staff, partners, the media, official agencies), and provide updates if the situation changes.

In times of crisis, clear and timely communication is essential, so it is a good idea to assign this task to someone appropriate, to ensure that it happens.

Try to anticipate and answer any likely questions, while being very clear and concise. If there are false rumours circulating, take the earliest opportunity to set the record straight – but in a calm and considered way. Monitor social media to see what is being said about you.

The nature of a crisis means that the media want to engage with you at the moment when they are least welcome! To minimise any negative impact, it is important always to respond, and with patience and courtesy – no matter how galling the attention may be.

This is because the conversation is not just with the individual journalist, or even with a group of agitators who may be generating the bad publicity. The primary audience are the consumers of the media, your customers.

Finally, remember that there is life after a crisis. At the time, it can feel as if the world is ending. Stay calm, get through it, and then put a clear plan in place to repair any damage which may have been done to your reputation.