Crisis situations have many faces. They present themselves at different times and in varying ways. They can come in as a small problem and, if mismanaged, escalate into a mission critical disaster. Some begin as explosive disasters that immediately cripple an organization, while others hang around like a bad virus and kill after a lengthy and unpleasant illness.
While the specific nature of the crisis dictates your response, we follow five key rules when helping clients deal with any crisis situation:
First, acknowledge what has happened. Most people are willing to accept the fact that mistakes happen. What they won’t tolerate is you failing to recognize it. You may not know why 150,000 gallons of #2 crude is now in the backyards of 35 homes, but it is there for all to see.
Second, quickly, clearly and accurately communicate the immediate steps you have taken to deal with the situation. People want to know what you are doing now to fix the problem you created. Actions speak louder than words.
Third, communicate consistently and demonstrate that you will take additional steps to deal with situation as it unfolds. People want to know that you’re going to be around to help them deal with the fallout of your mistake. Again, actions speak louder than words.
Fourth, and perhaps most mission critical, provide multiple opportunities and channels to capture the feedback from those affected by the situation. People really want to let you know how your mistake has changed their lives as much as they want to know what you’re doing about it. Regular feedback also is essential to assessing and understanding how your messages and actions are being received by those affected. The quantity, tone and intensity of feedback helps guide your on-going communications and actions going forward.
Fifth, the key to survival in a crisis is knowing where to go for the right kind of help – the earlier, the better. Get the extra help you need from your attorneys, public relations firm or other consultants to ensure a positive outcome.