Irrespective of size, large, small or medium sized organisations may be hit by an unexpected crisis. An established and solid business should have a crisis management plan, to ensure that the organisation has a structure in place if things go haywire. There are endless possibilities of different crises which may hit an organisation and such may include a recall of products due to danger and contamination, a lawsuit, allegations of misconduct and corruption and dire financial results, amongst others.
Such scenarios can lead to severe media scrutiny, impacting a company’s reputation and sales. One of the immediate reactions that may be adopted by a company’s senior management in the event of such a crisis would be to close down all the walls of communication and barricade themselves to fix the problem. This is in fact the wrong approach. Several public relations experts who have significant experience in the field highlight the importance of immediate and full disclosure. This helps to minimise rumours, allowing for transparency which is something the public would want.
Each crisis will have its own unique problems which need to be adapted to. With that said, the media and customers would want to know what happened, why, what is being done to fix it and if this will impact them personally.
In this respect, one rule of thumb would be to state the full truth and all material facts, with no assumptions, guesses and speculations. It is also important to rope in your legal counsel, sharing with them the material statements. If certain material facts are concealed, this will increase the risk that the whole strategy backfires, hurting the company even more.
It is important to anticipate that members of the media will attempt to contact employees within your company. It is therefore essential to ensure that you have a crisis management team and a spokesperson who can handle communication with external parties and to whom all related requests may be directed to. Other employees should be instructed to refrain from communicating with the media, to ensure a consistent message.
A well-drafted press release is also a necessity to explain material facts in detail rather than a public statement. If a senior executive within the organisation wishes to directly address the media, this needs to be well prepared for, with the underlying message that the company is willing to accept accountability and take all necessary action to rectify the situation. Other messages may be recorded by the company and distributed to the media and via its own online channels such as YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook.
If the crisis is of a serious nature, one would expect that the media will keep asking questions, which is why the company needs to have in hand a comprehensive strategy catering for different scenarios. In this respect, such organisations will need to adopt a patient approach as it manages a delicate reputational matter.