Keeping calm and helping clients navigate negative media coverage or company emergencies, particularly at the speed of social media, is a vital part of any ongoing communications strategy. While we can’t all have Olivia Pope (or her real-life inspiration Judy Smith) on speed dial, a proactive communications plan can help reduce the fallout when negative news hits. Here are a few top tips for crisis communications:
1) Identify threats before they arise
Outline every potential threat your company or client may face – lawsuits, on-the-job-accidents, security breaches, etc. Complete a response matrix worksheet for each scenario that includes strategies for minimizing damage and identifies key personnel who will develop and deliver a response to the media. Not all crises, such as Donald Sterling’s recent racial slurs, are predictable; however, it is important to have a proactive strategy when it comes to crisis management and to prepare for what you can.
2) Have prepared blanket statements
Part of your crisis communications plan should include statements pre-approved by your company’s stakeholders, including the legal department. Whenever possible, develop a statement for each potential situation that includes easy-to-fill-in placeholders. This will enable you to be more responsive to the media when a crisis happens.
3) Be honest
When dealing with the media, be straightforward and remember the 5 “NEVERS”:
- Never Lie
- Never Speculate
- Never Lose Your Temper/Swear
- Never Say ‘No Comment”
- Never Lose Eye Contact
4) Keep your media responses concise
Think in 30-second sound bites. Strive to include your three most important, carefully worded messages in your media responses and work to include them in any interview without sounding like a broken record.
An effective crisis management plan can help you navigate almost any scenario that arises. With a little foresight and careful planning, you can minimize the impact of an unfavorable situation for your client or organization.
Learn more about crisis management planning directly from Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for the TV show “Scandal.” She will be speaking at the Vocus Demand Success PR & Marketing Conference, June 5-6, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Register Now!