By Evan Nierman, founder & CEO of crisis management firm Red Banyan, which provides strategic PR consulting to clients around the world.
Crises take many forms. While some are minor, others have the potential to be life-altering.
Maybe your company is experiencing financial difficulties, and the media is knocking on your door. Perhaps you sent off a tweet too quickly, and people found it problematic. Or it could be that something from your past has resurfaced and is threatening your business’s future.
The situations all vary widely, but some things remain the same. Whatever the reason for your crisis, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that you and your brand emerge unscathed. Here are 10 critical steps for managing a crisis.
1. Lay The Groundwork
The crisis with the potential to really harm you is the one that nobody saw coming. Assume that there will be crises and start preparing now. After all, the best time to tackle a crisis is before it starts. Take a hard look at the way your company operates, and assess for any weak areas. When you find one, take action steps to fix it before it ever balloons into something bigger.
2. Get A Second Opinion
Things have started to bubble up — but will they spill over? Sometimes, it can be hard to tell whether a situation has the potential to become a full-blown crisis, or if it will settle down all on its own. Check with a crisis management professional to see what they think — their experience will allow them to guide you on the best next steps.
3. Don’t Hold Back
When speaking to your crisis manager, be open and honest, and reveal every aspect of the story. If you leave something out because it is embarrassing, then it has the potential to come back and bite you. The crisis manager needs to be able to take everything into account when formulating a plan, and it is impossible to play out potential scenarios when there are secrets that could change everything. Trust your crisis manager to have your back.
4. Move Quickly
As soon as a crisis arises, it is important to take immediate action. Delaying will only limit your options and make you appear to be losing control. By responding immediately, you may be able to take control of the story and ensure that your voice is heard.
5. Stay Ahead Of The Crisis
It is far more difficult to restore a broken reputation than to keep a good one. Do all that is in your power to preserve your good name — moving at a rapid pace, take accountability when necessary, and defend yourself from detractors.
6. Make The Media Work For You
The legal system can be slow and arduous, but media moves at the speed of light. If you find yourself locked in a battle with an adversary who has wronged you, take the fight to the press. If it’s handled with finesse, the court of public opinion can rule decisively in your favor.
7. Define Your Character
In this day and age, we all have our own personalized media platforms — social media. You are the journalist on your own pages, and you can use this control to portray yourself to the world in the light in which you want to be seen. Show everyone who you really are and that there is a life beyond the crisis.
8. Be Intentional About Your Posts
At the same time, think hard about each post before you press that “publish” button. Consider how different people might react to it. If you are uncertain, run it past a second pair of eyes. There are far too many people who have posted photos and words they have later regretted. Remember that screenshots are forever.
9. Press The Truth
This is the mantra of my own crisis management agency for a reason. Don’t let the story get away from you. Get your truth out there, and make sure it is heard. Whittle down your key points. Repeat them often, and plaster them across every platform available to you. At the end of it all, you want people to walk away repeating your story.
10. Reevaluate Your Plan
Once this crisis is behind you, you may think the grind is over. It’s not. This is the time to start planning for the next crisis. What worked? What could be improved upon? Refresh your plan, and make sure it is optimized to fit your needs. Then, when the next crisis comes along, you will be even more prepared.
Nobody is immune to a crisis, but with a crisis management plan, you don’t have to let it overtake you. Follow these 10 steps for effective crisis management, and you will be able to face anything that comes your way with poise and confidence.