Okay, your organization made a big mistake, and the public is talking about it. What can you do?
This is when crisis management kicks in. It is just a matter of time when the crisis comes. It will come and don't hope and pray that it won't blow your organization to pieces. With social media, fiascos, nightmares, and blunders are magnified to the millionth power.
1. Create a plan to address the most critical issues to the least important. Is it a public relations crisis, an environmental disaster, a public health concern, a racist statement, a hostage situation, a sudden accident in the plant causing deaths, etc. What are the paramount issues that need to be tackled immediately, in the next 24 hours, 48 hours, and the first week of the crisis, second week up to the first 3 months?
2. Create a team or committee that will have different roles and responsibilities to deal with several aspects of the crisis. One person will be the one answering to media inquiries. One person will contact the people or customers concerned and inform the relevant stakeholders and agencies of the problem. One person will keep the staff calm and collected, and become that go-to for anything company related. One person from management will address the public and stakeholders via a public broadcast which may require an apology statement or statement that details what the company will do to avert further damage, destruction, or mayhem to the situation.
3. Keep the lines of communication open, internally and to the public at large. Nobody wants to be in the dark about a crisis that is developing that may involve public safety, public health, and life and death, and other serious repercussions. The more the company or organization is open in admitting its omissions and commissions, its errors, and gaps in its practices, solutions can be developed for long-term prevention and mitigation measures.
4. Something significant happened in the company that put them in the news. Whether it is because of certain practices that led to these unfortunate incidents or things that were taken out proportion and perceived in an awful light, these things can propel the company to sudden popularity in a not-so-good way. When Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, all companies associated with the brand had to back off before their sales start to dip. Reputation management is crucial. Companies built brands for decades only to be damaged by malicious intent. Be responsive, address the issue, and take control of the messaging. If your company cannot control its messaging, somebody will, and it may not be on a favorable term.
The steps to crisis management start with creating a process to deal, contain, and control the situation from further escalating, empower a team to deal with different aspects of the case with central coordination, opening the lines of communication to all concerned stakeholders, and take responsive measures until all issues are satisfactorily resolved.
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