By Karen Rodriguez - Exec.Comm
A PR crisis can hit at any time. A customer might have been harmed by your product or service, a disgruntled employee might post inflammatory comments about your organization on social media, or your firm may have some internal turmoil that made the headlines.
The lesson here is that crisis communication preparedness is key to an organization’s success in weathering any media storm. Your company’s public image is challenged when it’s linked with a crisis.
Reporters and the public want to know what happened and why. Whether you work alongside a public relations person or not, as a human resources leader, you should have a communication strategy in place that puts you and your company in the best possible light.
When developing your crisis communications plan, think about these five tips for handling media inquiries:
Don’t stonewall the press by refusing to take calls. A spokesperson should always be available for one-on-one interviews and to give updates as often as possible. Depending on the gravity of the situation, you may want to proactively call a press conference.
Recognize that the press needs to gather information, evaluate what happened and speculate about causes. Your responsibility is to give a frank assessment of the situation and the facts as you know them. Don’t fall into the trap of responding to reporters’ speculations. If you do, you will be responding to fiction rather than offering facts and this puts you in defense mode. Instead of saying “no comment,” say something like “I don’t want to speculate on that.” This response shows that you are sticking to the facts.
Anticipate reporters’ questions.
Knowing the types of questions reporters tend to ask will put you at an advantage. During crisis events reporters typically want to know:
· A complete description of the event
· The number of people impacted
· Possible cause
· Who is responsible
· The cost of damages
· Mistakes and who made them
Use language that your audience will understand. Using simple visuals or analogies is an effective way to clarify key points.
Deliver what you promise.
Get back to reporters with more information when you say you will. If you are unsure when that will be, do not commit to a specific time. Remember that you will build rapport and credibility with reporters if you are honest and straightforward.
Do you have other tips for preparing for crisis communications? Let me know in the comment section below!
About the Author
As the manager of the Exec.Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen Rodriguez oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She joined Exec-Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009. Karen recently introduced the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched the company's quarterly lunch and learn series: The Learning Exchange manages the company's open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, and lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.