We've seen so many well known companies fall short when it comes to handling a crisis. In order to maintain a calm sense of control in a crisis - there has to be a plan set in place. Every company, big or small, needs to have a plan if something goes wrong publicly. A Crisis Management Plan will become your manual to handling any issue - large or small. Here is a starting point: Survive the Unthinkable Through Crisis Planning.
The ideal situation for implementing a Crisis Management Plan is having an in house PR person or at least an agency. Have someone who is well organized run the creation and implementation of the plan. This person should have the following responsibilities:
- Knowledge of PR
- Calm under pressure
- Understand the values and 'voice' of the company
- Thorough understanding of the media and how to respond to them
Crisis Management 101:
- Stay Calm. No one has ever been able to handle a major public issue without releasing the wrong statement, making the inappropriate comment or even waiting too long to handle anything. Keeping a calm composure will help keep the process running smooth. Panic is not pretty on anyone.
- Designate a spokesperson. There should always be one person who is responsible for releasing statements to the public and the press. If there is more than one person, confusion will set in and a conflict of information can occur. ONLY ONE PERSON. Make sure that it is someone calm under pressure, knows how to handle media and "can take a bullet" when it comes to answering reporter's questions.
- Take two days, once your crisis management plan is complete, and do Media Training Days. If you do not already have a PR person - find one. If you already have an in house PR person, ask them to gather together a few reporter friends and put on a 'press conference'. This is a great way to expose your spokesperson to a potential situation, if they have not already been trained. You will be incredibly happy when you don't have a spokesperson giving the "deer in the headlights" look when asked hard questions by the media. Split up your staff and do “rounds” of media training. [See Media Training Details for more information]
- Call a company meeting and explain to all of your employees how the plan works. Give them each a packet, including all the steps and resources for them to read. Use a recent scenario of a crisis gone wrong in the media. Each step that needs to be taken should be explained by using that example. This will help your employees.
- Draft up agreement statements from each employee, stating they will not release any information or make public statements unless they are the spokesperson. The boundaries of this statement can be determined by your company but the main focus should be that the employees understand that they are not to disclose any information unless they are the spokesperson.