It’s going to happen, so where’s your umbrella?
Crisis — It only exists because you aren’t prepared.
That’s the difference between one of those and a tragedy. There is absolutely nothing you can do about nature going bananas, colossal malfunctions or the dregs of society out on parade. Those things will inevitably happen when you least expect it. However, your ability to be prepared for the inevitable — or inability thereof — is what makes it a crisis.
I was thinking about a crisis communications plan watching any news report about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. While the entire world is watching what seems to be a real-life episode of the “X-Files” happening, the loss of life is tragically becoming a secondary story. When they are found, the crisis plan kicks in. Will they be ready? Would you?
For your perusal, your buddies at PR Newser have provided the following five quick tips for your next crisis plan:
1. Be a Boy Scout. We have already discussed but it is amazing how many businesses and organizations do not have an actual crisis communications plan. In the words of the Boy Scouts of America, “Be Prepared!” Why do you buy insurance on a car, TV, or just about anything else? In case S*!t Happens, right? Well, that’s a crisis communications plan — the solvent for the ess happens clause in every business. You have to be prepared for anything because when you least expect it, anything can happen. Stay ready and you help your brand. Get caught with your polka-dotted boxers around your ankles and we are all pointing at your “little reminder.” Laughing.
2. People First. Brand Later. In that order, got it? If not, you are going to look like a self-aggrandizing showboat that could care less about the people your brand just victimized (whether it’s your fault or not). No one gives two craps about your shareholders, executives, or brand, if you do not share all the information you can about the innocent consumers caught in the headlights thanks to your brand barreling down the Interstate. All communications should be aligned accordingly — human safety, victim’s needs, thoughts for the family, and then maybe you. Maybe.
3. Talk First or Be Talked About Soon Thereafter. The news is full of people with opinions. And you know what they about those. No, not that one. They are like farts because they are so hard to hold in, and then when one slips, everyone will know it and some may leave and never come back. That’s your brand, stinky. You must be the first to provide the message about this crisis. If not, opinions will flood the media and you will have no recourse but to catch up saying, “Nuh-unh!” While that may be classy and mature, you don’t want that sound bite. Be proactive. Be available. Be transparent. And above all, don’t be that guy or gal caught running after the press like you were ditched at a gas station.
4. Do Not Rely Only on Facts. Wait, what? Yes, facts are never enough in a crisis. Sure, they absolve your blame. Of course, they tell people what happened. Yet, hair is on fire and people are freaking out. Your number cruncher mining the calculator is not going to be omnipresent force of peace in this situation. Always verify the facts (through three sources, minimum, trust me on this), but prepare for more. What are your audience’s most pressing concerns? Some of that is circumspect based on your evaluation of the situation. Know what needs to be said … and know what they want to hear.
5. Fall on the Sword. While the use of the term means valiantly taking the blame for your inept actions, its genesis hails from Bushido, the art of the Samurai. Hara-Kiri is a Japanese death of nobility when a Samurai would unsheath his blade and stab himself in the stomach in front of his enemies. Most brands in a crisis feel like doing this too, and to a point (maybe pun intended), they should. Nothing will falter any positive mojo your brand can muster in crisis than delaying to tell everyone that it is your fault. Even if it is not, say there was more you could have done. And then, go do it. That should work.