Top Ten Crisis "Rules of the Road"
Your name is on the product, so you're responsible for it. The public
wants you to accept responsibility, whether you're actually to blame for
it or not.
Recognize the difference between bad publicity and a crisis and calibrate your response
If you have an embarrassing story in the paper, it doesn't mean that it's a full blown crisis.
It could just be bad publicity and will eventually blow over. You can make it worse by
overreacting and creating your own publicity. So recognize the difference between bad publicity
and a full blown crisis or get some help in recognizing that difference.
Use Research to determine how to respond.
One of the most effective things a company can do is to poll its consumers to understand
what they're thinking about a particular crisis situation and what they think the company
should do. Many times research data is used to plan a response. And many times you'll find that
what a company thinks is a crisis is really only bad publicity and you reach that conclusion by
Recruit and use third parties to speak on your behalf.
Some large institutions may show a lack of trust. So it is very important to have other
people, such as friends, to say the things you want to say about your company. Many times they
are more credible than you are.
Treat the media as your friends, not enemies.
Just like you, they've got a job to. You can let them use other sources, such as hostile third
parties or people who have an interest in giving you trouble, or you can deal with them
forthrightly. It's much easier to do the latter of the two.
Assume you'll be sued.
It doesn't make a difference what you do, how you act, whether you accept blame, take blame,
take responsibility or don't take responsibility, you are going to be sued. It's the way
a company handles the crisis and how it behaved that enables it to avoid punitive damages in a
lawsuit. Openness in communications can not be reiterated enough. Assume you're going to be sued,
and don't act on the basis that somehow you can avoid it.
Watch the Web as closely as the traditional media.
More people are using the Web for communication than ever before. So be sure to have Internet
access to see not only what the traditional media is saying, but also what's going on in chat
rooms and on the Web.
Demonstrate concern, care and empathy.
You want to be sympathetic and you want to empathize. People will not listen to what happened and
why it happened until you've gotten past the emotionalism of the moment. The only way to get past
the emotionalism is to sympathize or empathize with the people who have been affected.
Take the first 24 hours very, very seriously.
You may do all the right things, but the perception of your company and how you manage the crisis
is shaped in the first 24 hours.
Begin your crisis management plan right now by doing the things you need to do to build
your reputational assets.
Corporate reputation does matter in a time of crisis.