Getting your message out regularly in an effective way can be challenging on its own and a crisis situation heightens that challenge. The secret to managing your message well in a crisis is about being prepared for it.
No one can predict every crisis, but it is possible to contemplate potential issues that may come up regarding many of the situations you face every day, even though you hope they never happen. For example, there’s always a possibility that a client may accuse you of doing bad work, sue you and put your reputation and entire business at risk. Of course, you hope that never happens and you work hard every single day to deliver the best possible quality service, but the first step to being able to handle a crisis is admitting to yourself in advance that it might happen.
Once you admit to yourself that a crisis can occur, you need to take the time to brainstorm the potential situations where it could arise and identify your options for various courses of action you could take to diffuse it. Take these scenarios and formulate a plan around them.
A key element of any crisis management plan is set of protocols that allow you to respond quickly and maintain a semblance of order and control. Such protocols will help you even if a crisis arises that you did not predict and for which you did not pre-plan. Protocols should include a system for how you share information within your organization; how information gets to your board of directors (if you have one); who speaks on your behalf to the media, to your stakeholders and to various other constituencies; and how you issue information via all of your communications channels.
Getting through a crisis publicly is about good communications and plenty of it. We tend to seize up, go inward and try to deal with things first, then talk later. This almost always makes things worse when people are trying to find out what is going on from you. The less responsive you are, the more they assume you don’t know what you are doing, can’t handle it or are guilty of something dreadful. Having a protocol in place with a designated person with the authority to speak that also has access to the information he or she needs in order to turn around and deliver a message to your various publics will help you tremendously.
Finally, admit when you are wrong immediately, but also provide information on what you are going to do to correct your mistake as soon as possible. Furthermore, admit when you don’t know, but also tell people what you are going to do to find out. Honesty will always go a very long way in terms of your credibility, which will ultimately help you recover from whatever crisis you face.