Strategic crisis communication planning and thoughtful preparation can help you deal effectively with those simmering, latent and emerging crises, disasters, emergencies or other unusual events that may cause unfavorable publicity or perceptions of you and your organization even if you have created the crisis yourself …
- Be prepared – Although emergencies by their very nature are unpredictable, unless of course you create the crisis either intentionally or unintentionally by your behavior, it is possible to list and prepare for those potential negative scenarios that might occur during chapter activities. It also is possible to set up a communication system that can be activated in almost any emergency situation.
- Do the right thing – In any emergency situation it is imperative that you put the public interest ahead of the organization’s and your personal interest. Your first responsibility is to the safety and well being of the people involved. Once safety has been restored, face the public and face the facts. Never try to minimize a serious problem or “smooth it over” in the hopes that no one will notice. Conversely, don’t blow minor incidents out of proportion or allow others to do so.
- Communicate quickly and accurately – Positive, assertive communication focuses attention on the most important aspects of the problem and moves the entire process forward to resolution, even in a negative environment or with an antagonistic news media. Understand that the main stream media representatives have an obligation to provide reliable information to their audiences, and they will get that information whether or not you cooperate. If you won’t comment on the situation, you can be sure someone else will. You maintain some control by making sure you are at least one of the major sources of media information in a crisis. Give factual information, don’t speculate.
- Use social media – If you have established electronic relationships via Facebook and Twitter in advance of the crisis, now is the time to use social media to shape the message and quickly correct any mis-information being relayed by other sources.
- Follow up – Make amends to those affected and then do whatever is necessary to restore your organizations reputation in the community. Change internal policies or institute new ones to minimize a repeat of the crisis situation. Also, revise your crisis communication plan based on your experience.
- Successful communication will depend, in large part, on the preparations and relationships you have established long before the crisis occurs.