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Common Sense Business Ideas and Information

Crisis Communication

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Every business will end up in a situation where the business will be in a crisis that affects the organization publicly. The crisis the business faces could be a recall of a product you make, a recall of a product you sell, or an indiscretion by an employee to name a few.  The key, like any business situation is to be prepared to communicate to all your constituencies. The worse thing that can happen is fail to communicate and alienate customers, suppliers, or employees.

Don’t let the public fill the company’s communication gaps

The simple truth is the organization needs to take control of the situation to insure the correct information and enough appropriate information gets to the public. If you do not communicate the information, the public will fill in the gaps for good or bad.  If you have a good reputation, people will tend to give you the benefit for a while, but that will not last.  Ask any prominent politician that has run into problems.  Most of the time people will forgive some transgressions, but when the “spin” gets too heavy people revolt. If your organization does not have a strong reputation the crisis can kill the business.

Make communication proactive and timely

The handling of the Tylenol poisoning is probably the best example of how to handle a product crisis.  The company was proactive.  It got the information to the public that was needed, in a timely manner, and kept the information flow going.  Most of the analysts were saying this would kill the brand, but obviously that did not happen.

Lead with your big guns

Most of us will probably never face the depth of a problem that the Tylenol people faced, but that does not mean you should not be prepared even for small public relation problems.  First, know who the voice of your organization will be in a crisis.  Usually it is best that it be the highest possible person in your organization, the president or CEO.  A public relations person can do, for a small problem, but there is nothing better than the credibility of the key employee. 

Get the facts out

Second, lead the flow of information.  Get the facts out.  Do not try to minimize the situation, be truthful.  The worst thing that can happen is the press goes hunting for information.  This leads to employees being ambushed by the press, as well as, the public hearing statements from employees that are not complete or accurate.

Talk to the employees

Third, communicate with your employees.  Tell them what is going on. Your employees can be valuable in ensuring the right information gets to the public.  You can ask them to refer the press and its questions to you, but you must remember each employee has a broad range of family, friends, and acquaintances that will be asking them about the problem.  It is best they have the facts, because they like the general public will fill in the details if they don’t know the real facts.  That is being human.

Also, communicating with employees will keep them from feeling alienated.  Employees are can be your best resource in crisis situations.  People want to and will rise to the occasion.  In most cases it is as simple as explaining the problem, giving them the words to say when asked about the problem.  For instance in a product recall situation tell them how the company is handling the problem and give them a simple script to tell people.  For example, “The company is committed to keeping our customers safe and is in the process of recalling all suspect products. “

Have a plan work the plan

Managing communication crisis is really no different than and business problem.  Having a plan and working the plan is always a good answer.

Written by John Marrinan

September 3rd, 2009 at 9:32 pm

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