Posted By Strategic Communications on 08/03/2021

Best Practice Advice for Handling Crisis Communications

Best Practice Advice for Handling Crisis Communications

We seem to live in an increasingly contentious world these days. Unfortunately, it’s also a world where news travels fast; bad news travels especially fast. The speed of communication in the 21st century is fueled by “citizen journalists” and crowdsourcing. Everyone and anybody can have a platform these days. And just about everyone these days is armed with smartphones that offer the ability to capture, record, and share whatever may be going on around them. Sometimes that can create positive exposure for companies and their senior leaders and spokespeople.

Sometimes that exposure, unfortunately, is negative and viral.

So what should you do if your company, its products, services, or people become the target of negative communication? What’s the best way to respond?

Quickly and honestly! And it pays to have a good relationship with the media and other influencers prior to the emergence of an issue.

Tips for Dealing With Negative Incidents

Here’s what it takes to navigate sensitive communication situations for the best outcomes:

  • Build a solid reputation with the media and strong relationships on an ongoing basis. If the reporters you deal with know you to be forthright and honest, that will go a long way toward helping you manage potential negative coverage.

  • Cultivate those same strong and honest relationships with other key audiences like your customers, employees, and others. Employees can serve in very valuable “brand ambassador” roles for the organizations they work for. But they’ll only do this if they trust you and believe in your products/services, mission, vision, and values.

  • Be honest and transparent, always, with all audiences. This has always been important for building a strong brand but is even more so in a digital communication environment. There’s no hiding from the truth.

  • Get ahead of the story. Don’t wait for someone else to break the story. The world is full of citizen journalists these days; news travels fast. In the “old days,” organizations would sit back and hope the story would go away. Sometimes it did. But that’s no longer an option. Get your message out early and often.

  • Arm your employees, customers, and others with your messages. Because the media doesn’t always report exactly what you tell them, share your key messages with audiences that you have direct access to, including your social media followers. Use your own communication channels to control and spread your message. Literally provide employees and other key influencers in your network with the messages that you have shared with the media so that they can support and share those same messages with others.

  • Take the high road and stay positive. Continue to repeat and emphasize your key messages as necessary. Don’t get drawn off the topic or engaged in debate or argument, especially in public forums.

  • Learn from each experience you have. Seek feedback and input, debrief and make process changes to do even better the next time you have an opportunity to respond to negative situations.

What would you add to the list?

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