ABC has just released a new show – Scandal on life at a crisis PR Agency. Very interesting – what is it these people do exactly?
One key lesson we have learned working in crisis is that even though there are times when you can get away with burying your head in the sand, a crisis that brings media attention isn’t one of them. Drop what you’re doing and address crisis situations as they happen; it’s impossible to sit behind a computer and “outwork” catastrophes. Nor is it advisable to make announcements via a blog post or email.
As Warren Buffett says: “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
So here are a few lessons:
1. Act Fast—the Court of Public Opinion Doesn’t Wait - Anyone involved in a crisis must, like it or not, understand the need to respond quickly to the media and not wait. (Many brands seem not to get the urgency us Crackberry addicts have.)
2. Tell the truth – Don’t tell us the system is up when its not and don’t charge monthly fees when taking government bailouts. Communicate that you are working very hard to fix it – and don’t BS us.
3. Speak English – Don’t try to disguise the truth with fancy language, technical speak or business babble. People can see right through it and won’t believe it. Its talking down to your customer. If you think you’re smarter than they are, you’re fried.
4. Get your story straight – don’t announce every idea you have to the public and then change your mind. Good strategy takes time. So take the time to figure it out and get a communication plan in order before you run out and tell people your changing your business model without a good reason or at least a reason that will make sense to the parties who are going to be affected by it.
5. Finally, do what you say - Saying one thing and doing another simply does not work. It’s a lesson learned and confirmed only through experience.