Walk, Do Not Run, To The Nearest Exit

Hi everyone!  It’s Kelly, LCI’s Senior Account Executive, and as of last week, crisis communications expert! 

The team just completed a monstrous crisis communications plan for a client and it completely changed my thoughts on dealing with a crisis.  Situations are not so black and white anymore.  Depending on how things are handled, we are either able to get away with far more than we planned, or caught a lot sooner than we had hoped.  Here is a condensed version of a crisis communications plan:

First off, what constitutes a crisis?  I’ve learned that a situation is only considered a crisis if YOU consider it to be one. Use your common sense (that’s why Mother Nature gave it to you!)  Some things to ask yourself when a potential crisis hits:  Will the situation affect the public’s perception of your organization in an ongoing way?  Does the situation cast a negative light on the reputation or credibility of your business?  If you answered “yes” to either of the above, then I would say you definitely have a crisis on your hands.

Secondly, appoint a spokesperson ahead of time.  This person will be the only line of communication with the media, so they should be reliable and trained to deal with the media.  It’s helpful if said spokesperson knows the organization’s background inside and out has excellent communication/organizational skills. 

Third is what I like to call “controlled chaos.”  Something has happened….it’s out of your hands now.  The only thing left to do is to ensure the situation has been controlled and all information is flowing to the appointed spokesperson only.  This would also be a good time to assemble what we call a “SWAT Team,” a team consisting of that organization’s members who can work together to craft evolving messaging during the crisis.

Each message will be directed toward a particular audience (i.e., the media, the organization’s funders, the public, etc.).  This is a very important step because it will set the tone of how these audiences will perceive the crisis and how the organization dealt with the crisis. 

Finally, take steps to ensure, to the best of your ability, that this crisis will never happen again.  A crisis will most likely be remembered forever (I think we can all relate this back to the SF Zoo-tiger mauling incident last year), so assuring your patrons/customers/funders that you are taking the proper steps to avoid a crisis in the future will renew credibility within the organization.

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2 thoughts on “Walk, Do Not Run, To The Nearest Exit

  1. Kelly – glad to see you’ve learned some important lessons about crises – yes, it’s all about two way communication, finding the facts, monitoring the response and accepting responsbility (where it’s your organization’s to accept). With pros like you on their side, clients can better prepare for the unexpected. Good work!

  2. As someone who is just getting into the PR industry, this article has some great tips for keeping calm during a media relations crisis. I like how you define “crisis” partially by how one deals with the situation. If the team prepares for challenge points and works together when unexpected events occur, then it is possible to successfully minimize or avert negative media attention away from the client.

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