Invariably, when people ask me about Tanner Friedman or the work we are doing, the subject moves to crisis communications. After all, adversity – in the workplace, in the locker room, or after hours – continues to dominate headlines and stimulate public debate. Members of our firm are often asked to comment on high profile matters for the media with the underlying question always along the lines of: How could crisis have been avoided and how was it handled?
WWJ’s Murray Feldman recently invited me in studio to discuss exactly that. You can hear a snippet of that interview here. First and foremost, we as communications counselors recommend, an organization should operate at all times with honesty, integrity and transparency. And, while a crisis can still take place within any culture or environment, that modus operandi should form the foundational starting point. Do the right thing up front and questions of character or particular actions should not come up.
Proactive, preventive measures should also include, we feel, making sure a seasoned communications professional has a seat at the C suite table of every organization, someone skilled in anticipating whether a potential public backlash is likely from corporate decisions made. Further, having a formal crisis communications team in place and ready to go at a moment’s notice is also vital. Bad things can occur in an instant and spread like wildfire. That team should move to deal with them in an organized and immediate way.
The core tenets of dealing with crisis remain the same, yet, all too often not followed. They include:
- Determining immediately what happened, when, how and why
- Apologizing or acknowledging fault if necessary and taking corrective action
- Reassuring that it will not happen again
Finally, communicating with your key audiences swiftly and effectively and in the right form and fashion should be well thought out. And that should include, first and foremost, your employees. They can be your greatest advocates in times of crisis if it is demonstrated to them their importance to the organization in both goods times and bad.
Statistics show it is not if a crisis will occur for most organizations but when. Being ready to spring into immediate action in the right way is crucial to managing reputation, regaining trust and, ultimately for long-term survival.