GroundFloor Media & CenterTable Blog

Crisis Communication Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Gil Rudawsky, vice president at GroundFloor Media. I co-lead the crisis communication and reputation management practice. In cooperation with IMA, I wanted to offer some communication tips for managing a crisis

  1. Have a Crisis Communication Plan and Test It Regularly. No crisis is easy, but having  a response roadmap, messaging, potential scenarios and best practices already in place will make it easier. No doubt, every scenario is unique but having key checklists ready can make managing a crisis go much more smoothly and the road to recovery much quicker.
  2. Timing is Crucial. The speed of a crisis can be overwhelming. You have to react immediately, or you will remain stuck behind the story. This is especially true with the popularity of social media. It used to be that you had to respond to media by their afternoon deadline. Now, news and crises are part of a 24-hour cycle.
  3. Be Honest and Open. It can be tempting to be less than completely honest during a crisis, but all you are doing is digging a bigger hole for your company. Always remember that it is better to hear bad news from you than from the media. You’ll be shocked at how large the general public’s capacity for forgiveness is if they think you are being truthful.
  4. Don’t Forget Your Employees. There is no greater community ambassador than your employees. Treat them like any other valued audience. It is not a best practice to have your employees find out about a potentially negative issue by hearing it first in the media. Keep them in the loop, and give them the tools to respond.
  5. Your Plan is Just a Starting Point. Even the best plans may have to be customized on the fly for a specific crisis. Be ok with flexibility, but always maintain the guiding principles of authenticity, accuracy, compassion, immediacy and trust.
  6. Social Media has Changed Everything. The ability for one or two unsatisfied customers to get attention has never been greater, not to mention viral advocacy campaigns that can damage business and ongoing reputations. Figure out who is monitoring and if or how to respond on all social media platforms. And remember, make sure your voice is platform appropriate – what you might say to the media is different than a Twitter or LinkedIn response.
  7. Go Where the Conversations are Happening. You don’t control where people talk about you or your company, and you must go where they are having conversations. If something is breaking on Facebook, that’s where you should respond. A famous example is the plane that crash landed in the Hudson River. People were posting about it on Twitter, but US Airways couldn’t respond because it did not have a Twitter account. These days, most large companies have a presence on most social media platforms, but it’s still important to have a crisis communication plan in place that can be implemented quickly across all social media channels.
  8. It Isn’t Personal to Media. Media cover a crisis because they think it is a good story, not because they have a vendetta against you or your company. Also, be sure to set appropriate expectations particularly for executives. Bad news will always be reported by the media as bad news. It reminds me of a saying from my early days in the newspaper business, “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.” That idea is still true today, although the printed part seems outdated.
  9. A Crisis is Like a Boxing Match. Even if you win, you are going to hurt for a little while. The best thing a company can do is to learn from the crisis, and put into place new rules or processes to make the next crisis go a bit more smoothly.
  10. You’re Never Sorry for Having Taken the High Road. Crises can be emotional, but try hard to keep it in perspective. No one will ever fault you or a company for being authentic and trustworthy. It’s the right thing to do, even under trying circumstances.

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