We went to bat again as the professional PR firm handling a client’s crisis communications. Hats off to them for understanding that they didn’t have the expertise internally to address the crisis and for listening to our recommendations and supporting our effort. Much like the dozens of other crisis situations we have faced, there were three essential elements to meeting the crisis and winning. Here they are:
1. Understanding that it is a crisis. Typically, we define crisis communications as one that could potentially have dramatic negative impact on the business. The most recent crisis could have destroyed the client’s credibility, closed the business and, could have created class action lawsuits. Overcoming denial, is key. If the matter can put you out of business, it is a crisis.
2. Don’t overlook that your first objective is to communicate with your employees. Employees can destroy your public relations effort if they are not on board. Create an all employees memo that gives them the facts that you can ascertain at the time and can still ring true at the end of the crisis and share it with them. Tell them what there response should be with clients and with friends and family. Tell them you have a communications professional on board and give them their telephone number if the media comes calling. This gives them a level of serenity in facing the crisis.
3. Lastly, understand that you must communicate to the media based on your agenda and not the media’s. The news media loves speculation and want to tie the story into a neat bow. Most issues are more complex. Your best opportunity is in the first communications with the media and try to resolve as many questions as possible on the first round or questions. You should understand that. most times, you cannot end the questions on Day 1. You must stay atop the issues and anticipate the next round of questions ahead of the media phone call.
It is the most delicate of PR challenges and never rely on rookies for this type of work. It is too important to overlook.