By Nikki G. Bannister, principal, Nik Scott LLC.
It’s a situation too common.
Somebody or something in your organization is perceived or reported to have run amuck, fail to work or be misinterpreted; then everybody does nothing. Now, someone has to respond, and while everyone panics, your organization seeks to keep a cool head and maintain damage control with your audience. But …
Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … Crisis communication.
Crisis communication is the true gatekeeper of an organization. It provides the proactive before you have to become reactive. Effective crisis communication changes the left-to-right headshakes to the up-and-down headnods at the end of any crisis. It satisfies all.
A company’s reputation is its pride … and vice versa. Ironically, it’s the pride of a company that can ruin its reputation if crises aren’t handled effectively. Every company, whether large or small, regardless of industry, should have an effective crisis communication plan. Everyone in the communications department and management should ask “what if?” and for every “what if,” there should be a competent response.
Where to go, who to go to, why go here or there? These are questions that should be answered in every crisis communication plan. You know those glass boxes that have the fire extinguishers or axes that are labeled “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass?” That’s how every communications department should utilize its crisis communication plan.
Be accessible, genuine and more important, be transparent. Nobody wants to give the media bad info and get bitten by the truth bug later. Know the facts and get the numbers right. Nobody wants to overestimate numbers when statistics are key factors. In 2004, the media leaked a registrar at a small Southern U.S. college was involved in a grade-changing scandal. The chancellor announced that hundreds of students were involved or had their grades changed so they could eventually graduate. However in the end, it was found that less than 20 were actually involved. The chancellor got the numbers wrong. It was actually hundreds of students records were being audited – at random – as part of the process.
Get. It. Right.
Ensure every person or outlet that has a need to know indeed gets to know what going on. Whether its managers, the public, stakeholders or every media outlet, let them know ASAP! Waiting makes people wonder and as my grandma used to say, “Wait broke the wagon.”
Remember, when you expect the unexpected, nothing can go wrong. Then you can save your organization’s pride and reputation and come out like Superman.
Nikki G. Bannister, is the principal of Nik Scott, an “editorial consulting” firm, and freelance reporter, based in the bayous of Louisiana.
Nik Scott is an editorial consulting firm created to “set the stage” for associations to they can take flight, set sail or get running. Find out more about Nik Scott.