Sometimes in business, as in life, crap happens. Sometimes it’s a slow burn of bad decisions or economic conditions that continue to deteriorate. Sometimes it comes completely out of left field and leaves everyone scrambling to work out what to do.
When situations like this occur, you’d better hope that you have solid management in place and that they can think on their feet. A bad or rash decision (or lack of a decision) could be disastrous for your company.
In today’s 24-hour news cycle, management’s response to a crisis needs to be clear, concise and timely. Waiting for the dust to settle just allows others to control the story and reduces your ability to regain the narrative.
There are countless stories of companies ignoring social media posts that have gone viral, or just as bad, responding in an inappropriate way that has further inflamed the situation.
Owning the story from the start is key to any good crisis communications strategy. If you are not providing the content, someone else probably is and they may not take the time to check if it is correct or not. Once false information is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put it back in again.
Just as you’d bring in accountants for financial advice and lawyers for legal issues, engaging a specialist communications firm in a crisis makes sense on a lot of levels. They can provide arm’s length strategic advice to management, who are often in shock and have a thousand things buzzing around in their heads.
A good specialist communications firm is also well connected to media and can provide a firewall for management so that the message that needs to be communicated can be delivered in a controlled environment and not subject to tricks or shenanigans.
In an ideal world, companies will plan ahead for potential crises, and develop and practice scenarios that could occur at any time. While being prepared may not avoid the crisis, it will ensure that it can be better managed. Remember, when you need a friend, it’s too late to make one.