Case Example in a “Jurassic World”… One of your executives is accused of cooking the books and embezzling funds from one of your subsidiaries and when the county attorney and the sheriff’s deputies come to your office to arrest him, the media is there to record the event. In the next 30 minutes:
The Central Nervous System Twitches… CNN starts taking a live feed from a local TV station; A chat discussion begins on Yahoo; MSNBC reports receiving an anonymous e-mail that appears to corroborate these allegations; A union trying to organize the workers at your firm announces a webcast press conference in which it will claim that this situation is “just the tip of the iceberg”; Fox News interviews an “expert” on white collar crime who says this happens all the time; Your web site crashes from the surge in hits; Your switchboard is inundated with calls from angry and concerned customers
The Brain Responds…Sort Of Meanwhile back at the office: All the phone lines are so completely jammed that even internal calls can’t get through; Because of vacation, travel and illness, three of five members of the marketing department are unavailable; The General Manager is having lunch somewhere but she never turns on her cell phone and her secretary is gone; The Head of Finance is here but is working on next week’s acquisition announcement and “can’t be interrupted;”
If You’re Feeling a Little Jurassic Right Now… Then the time to start working on a crisis communications plan is now
“The Rules” A double handful of suggestions, observations and thoughts about crisis communications
Remember What You’re Doing Crisis communications is not a debate, a discussion or a conversation; it’s a conflict of ideas, messages and perceptions and the battlefield is in the minds of your stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, partners, etc.
You’re Playing Defense Crisis communications battles are almost always contests over issues not of your choosing and that you wouldn’t raise if you had any choice.
Avoid Panic… Develop, test, rehearse and follow a crisis response plan that covers not just communications but every aspect of company operations.
Elements of a Plan Central coordination Clearly defined roles Guided by risk management assessment Redundancy Regular test and review
Speed Kills More than ever, the media is 24/7 and its appetite for news is growing. Because of this, you have to be on- call and ready to respond at all times.
It Really Is a Global Village What happens in one part of the world is effectively instantly known everywhere. A story about your company will reach all of your stakeholders. Remember, too, that not all stakeholders view things the same way.
Don't Guess… Don’t speculate, theorize or hypothesize. In a crisis communications situation, credibility is built and sustained by sticking to what you know.
Gather Facts The best way to counter the dangers of rumor and gossip is to develop an extensive and practiced fact-gathering mechanism: A monitoring room for broadcasts Internet and print clipping services Outside media monitoring agencies Calls with key personnel on the frontlines
Share What You Know Use all the tools at your disposal – regular meetings, e-mails, audio recordings, intranets, etc. – to keep your employees, your clients and other key stakeholders informed.
Talk to People Who Have Been There Experience is valuable so a company should avail itself of experienced counsel in developing and reviewing crisis communications plans and for direct assistance in times of crisis.
Tell the Truth The media and your other stakeholders know when they’re not getting the full story from a company. Don't lie to them. Ever.
If You Want a Friend… The media is not your friend and it's not your enemy; they will cover you as long as you're a good story – for them.
You Can Run, But… It's better to tell bad news yourself than let somebody else find it, but if you're going to tell it, tell it all and make sure your facts are solid.
Practice, Practice, Practice… You still may not make it to Carnegie Hall, but a well-tested, practiced communications plan is even better than applause.
Never Touch the Camera… Never run and never pretend that you'll get the last word (remember you won't be in the editing suite when the piece gets put together).
Trust Your People Never begin a conversation with your PR people with "Here's what we should tell the media..." or "Tell them not to write that."
Know Your “Friends” Beware of lawyers and politicians (including the ones with titles like “analyst,” “expert” and “consultant”)
The Bottom Line The best communications people working with the best plan can make a good story great and a terrible story a little bit better.
So, In Conclusion… Act like a mammal Move fast Think ahead Understand your environment Be adaptable Create a crisis communications plan