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An Introduction to Crisis Communications January 27, 2008 National Democratic Institute.

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Presentation on theme: "An Introduction to Crisis Communications January 27, 2008 National Democratic Institute."— Presentation transcript:

1 An Introduction to Crisis Communications January 27, 2008 National Democratic Institute

2 10 WAYS TO GUARANTEE A CRISIS WILL BE WORSE.

3 10 Ways to Guarantee a Crisis Will be Worse: 1. BURY YOUR HEAD LIKE AN OSTRICH. 2. BEGIN TO WORK TOGETHER WHEN THE SITUATION IS MADE PUBLIC. 3. WAIT AND LET YOUR REPUTATION SPEAK FOR ITSELF. 4. SEE THE MEDIA AS AN ENEMY. 5. BE REACTIVE VS. PROACTIVE.

4 10 Ways to Guarantee a Crisis Will be Worse: 6. USE LANGUAGE THAT YOUR AUDIENCE CAN NOT UNDERSTAND. 7. ASSUME THAT IN THE END THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT. 8. LIMIT YOURSELF TO THE FACTS AND IGNORE THE EMOTIONS. 9. GUESS ABOUT THE IMPACT AND SCOPE OF THE DAMAGE. 10. DO THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER HOPING FOR DIFFERENT RESULTS.

5 What is a Crisis?

6 Crisis of Trauma: Loss of Life, property, or damage. Crises of reputation: Most likely to come across the business page of a newspaper for reasons including: bankruptcy, criminal activity of officials, and other scandals. Changes in public policy, mass layoffs, downsizing or a controversial endorsement of an issue or individual. Influx of refugees from another country.

7 Crisis Scenarios: Bomb threats, terrorism, violent attacks Crimes-murders, assaults, etc. Boycotts and demonstrations Lawsuits Equipment failure Environmental Hazard Accidents Fires Natural disasters Hostile media coverage Investigation of a government agency Influx of refugees from another country

8 BE PREPARED! PRE-THINK PLAN PREPARE PRESENT

9 PRE-THINK: 1.Can you predict or forecast a crisis? (droughts, floods, health crises, scandals, accidents, corruption, violence, etc.) 2.May predict some things – but when? 3.Think of all the elements you will need. 4.How will you and each office perform?

10 PLAN: Good crisis management is based on a system already in place – your team must develop an action plan. What can you do? What is the message you want to convey? You need to look ready? Need to know how to work together and with whom. Need to know who to alert. You must be ready – no matter what crisis!

11 PREPARE: A well managed crisis can look good if there is strong organization. 1.Organize a Communications plan. –Who is involved? –The Chief of Staff (President, Minister) –The Head of Communications –The senior person in charge of the area that is involved in the crisis situation. 2.Establish the Lines. –Who is in charge? –Who is the spokesperson? –Who contacts Who? 3.Establish the Mechanisms. –What is the message you want to convey? –Establish a war room. –Establish a location for media to gather. –Establish a location for media briefings.

12 PRESENT: In a crisis the best action it to be honest. Bring all of the key players together to get the facts straight! What is your message? The golden rule in crisis management: Tell it all Tell it fast Tell the truth Start right FINISH STRONG

13 MEDIA RELATIONS: Be courteous and helpful to the media – answer their questions. Be direct: if you dont tell everything, the media will get it someplace else. The message you convey should be understanding. Communicate the steps being taken to correct the problem. Update the media with additional information.

14 10 COMMANDMENTS OF MANAGING CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS: 1.You need a crisis communications plan. 2.Who is the boss? A crisis environment is not a democracy. Someone has to be in charge. 3.Have an effective mechanism for gathering good information. 4.Tell the Truth. 5.Use language your audience understands.

15 10 COMMANDMENTS OF MANAGING CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS: 6. Be compassionate, confident, and credible. 7. If you have bad news to tell, then tell it before anyone else has a chance to do it. 8. Discuss specific actions you will take to remedy the situation. 9.Dont be angry, petulant, or feel sorry for yourself. Crises demand calm, confident, leadership. 10. Dont get mired in yesterday or today; crisis management is all about tomorrow.

16 What to do in the first 24 hours of a crisis: Gather reliable information to make good decisions. Internal communications must be fast, effective, and accurate. Assemble a crisis team, including legal counsel. Confirm contact information. Take care of victims and families first. Notify families in person, if possible. Respond to the media inquiries as soon as possible. Delays could create the perception you are hiding something. Prepare a media statement that sticks to the facts while conveying concern and compassion.

17 What to do hours after the crisis: Offer what you know – dont speculate. Include in your initial statement: Location, type of incident, when it happened, why (if known), who is involved or affected, and what is being done to help the situation. Designate a media set-up area – a one stop shop for information. Do not say no comment – instead say We will be issuing a statement shortly or We are investigating the situation and doing everything to ensure the safety of those involved. Keep in mind that how media is handled in this phase sets the tone for the duration of the crisis.

18 What to do hours after the crisis: Develop a media briefing schedule. Leave time for questions – dont react to the media. Instead, use your message.

19 The ABCs of Crisis Media Relations

20 As Anticipation - Before talking to the media, anticipate likely questions and have answers ready for them. Be aware of any gaps in the information, and know where you are most vulnerable to media scrutiny. Think of the questions youd least like to answer and be prepared to answer them. Know your history with individual media organizations or reporters and when you might be vulnerable because of recent issues. Agenda - Prepare an agenda of points you want to make during an interview. Even though you tend to be reacting to media questions in a crisis situation, there are still message you want to communicate about the situation and how you are handling it. Stick to three or four major points. This can help keep you off the defensive. One way or another, make sure those key messages come out during the interview. Accessibility - Be accessible to the news media and let them know you are accessible. Many crisis situations, but not all, call for having the most senior executive do media interviews. You are taking the crisis seriously; you want to make sure that point is understood by important audiences. Get back to reporters quickly, even if it is only to field a question that youll have to research before getting back to them. You dont want the stories to say that you were unavailable for comment.

21 Bs Be Brief - Your answers should be concise and informative. Stick to the subject of the inquiry. When you start to ramble and stray from the subject, you may stray into dangerous areas. You dont have to have all of the answers; it is a crisis. Its OK to tell the reporter youll try to get the information and pass it along at the earliest opportunity. Be Truthful – if you dont know say so. You will damage your credibility if you come across insincere, or even worse, arrogant. Dont gloss over or minimize problems. If you dont know the answer to a question say so, and let the reporter know that youll do your best to find the answer as quickly as possible. Also, l avoid the phrase no comment when at all possible. In some cases, you may not be able to comment publicly. Say something like, Were still doing our own internal investigation and will have more to tell you later or Negotiations are at a very sensitive stage, and it could be harmful if we commented right now or Were still gathering information from the scene and well get back to you with those details as soon as we can. Bad News - Get out the bad news yourself. Do it quickly, and get it over with and behind you. The worst thing you can do is prolong the crisis by stalling so that it drops out like a leaky faucet. Stalling or offering only fragments of the story will create an information void. Frame the bad news in your own context. This means you are explaining what happened from your perspective. Getting the bad news out quickly yourself can also win points for candor and credibility with the news media and the public.

22 Cs Consistency – Consistency of message is always important, but it is more critical in a crisis. You should take care to make sure information given to the public during a crisis is as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Your credibility already is on the line because of the crisis; you wont want to add to your problems by having to go back and correct misinformation. For these reasons, keep the gathering and dissemination of information centralized. Collect information from a variety of sources without your organization, but then designate one or two people as spokespersons with sufficient rank in the organization to have credibility and demonstrate that you take the situation seriously. Make sure the spokesperson is well briefed by your crisis team before fielding questions. Command – Grab command of the situation. Set up a crisis team small enough to move quickly but big enough to include key information resources or decision-makers. Then make it clear to the media that youre getting a handle on the situation and that you re not just letting things spin out of control. Concern and Compassion – Youre concerned about your offices reputation, but youre also concerned about the people affected by the crisis – employees, citizens and others. That should come across in your dealings with the news media.


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