Things are running smoothly for your business. Then, out of the blue, a curve ball comes crashing through your door. Whether you a small business owner or a Fortune 500 CEO, how you respond can have a lasting impact on your reputation and the bottom line. So where do you start to repair the damage?
- Monitor social media and traditional media coverage.
- If your crisis is flying under the radar, you'll have a bit of time to plan.
- Now is the time to craft your initial response and have it ready to go at a moment's notice.
- Gather your brightest thought-leaders and get their input. You need an honest appraisal of the situation.
- If you issue an apology, realize that may not be enough. Every crisis is unique but many require an action plan that goes beyond written statements. Your legal team may guide your ultimate decision.
- If you have been following the MGM and Caesars ransomware attacks in the news, you've probably noticed that while the corporate giants issued written statements, to date there have been no broadcast interviews or even corporate videos released. The story was a lead in Las Vegas media and played high on network news as well. Their crisis teams must be betting this is the best response to a very difficult situation.
- A benefit of releasing your own video to explain your crisis or to issue an apology, is you don't have to face aggressive journalists with hardball questions.
- If that doesn't tamp the story down, consider a sit down interview with a journalist you consider as fair.
- You'll want to keep stakeholders informed along the way.
- Carefully crafted social media posts should be in your plan.
It's not just businesses that face these types of decisions when a communication crisis hits. Celebrities and a high-profile politician have issued mea culpas in recent days.
- Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis released an apology video when it was revealed they had provided letters of support for their longtime friend and convicted rapist, Danny Masterson. The couple apparently believed their communication with the trial judge would be private. I found their very causal video a bit off, but at least they acted quickly. The crisis didn't end there. Within days, Kutcher resigned from the charity he formed to combat child sexual abuse. To continue it that position would have been a distraction for the charity.
- Actress and talk show host Drew Barrymore shocked Hollywood when she announced her show would resume in the midst of the writers' strike. She said she "owned" the decision. Not so fast. When filming began, the show was picketed and the National Book Awards dropped her as host of its event. Take two: the actress apologized and announced her show would be halted until the strike is settled. It's going to take a while for Barrymore to repair the hit to her image.
- Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, no stranger to controversy, was kicked out of a live production of Beatlejuice for reported bad behavior. At first she denied she was vaping and more. Then video surfaced and her story evolved. Boebert apologized and explained she is going through a difficult divorce. Whether you believe her apology is sincere most likely depends of what you think about the Congresswoman overall. Once thing is clear. Cameras are everywhere. It is a good thing for everyone to remember in a crisis.
It's always better to be proactive when you know something negative is about to hit. When you are blindsided by bad news, make sure your first reaction is a smart one. Be flexible and evolve as the story evolves. There are certain situations that would be bad news for any company. Those you can game out in crisis communications training. Examples:
- Allegations of executive(s)wrong doing on or off the job
- Employee(s) posting negative stuff to social media about the company
- Allegations of violence in the workplace
- Workplace accident
- Negative acts caught on camera and released publicly
- Allegations of financial maleficence
- Allegations of sexual harassment
- Allegations of any type of discrimination
Hopefully you will never experience any of these. You'll be glad you prepared for the worst case scenario if you do.