Hopefully, you will not need to use this information, but it’s good to know what to do if a crisis arises.
If you’re a service provider, crises can arise from several situations, including being discredited publicly, a verbal misunderstanding or use of a poor choice of words. If you produce a product, crises can arise from a fault in your product, problems with distribution or questionable manufacturing procedures, among other things. These things can happen to individuals or companies of any size, from one-person shops to the largest corporations in the world.
These tips are meant to provide you with your initial steps, should a situation like this present itself. You may need to engage the services of a crisis communication firm or PR firm if your issue requires more attention.
1. If there is a situation that reflects negatively on your company that has become public knowledge and the media is contacting you for a comment, here are some steps to follow:
■Do not answer their questions on the spot, but do take their calls and tell them you will get back to them within a certain timeframe, whether it’s minutes or hours, but try to do it quickly enough for them to meet their respective story deadlines. Stall tactics rarely work, and if the media states that you did not respond to their requests for information, the public may assume you’re guilty or that you have something to hide, which is not what you want.
■Speak to your lawyer and/or other trusted business advisors and carefully craft a statement and answers to the questions you may be asked by the press. (If you need help, enlist the services of a PR firm or a crisis communications firm.)
■Don’t allow your staff members to speak with the press.
2. If you have a faulty product that you have sold, consult a lawyer about what you should and should not say about it, but do address it. You can recall the product through news alerts that you send to the media and distribute through social media, if many have been sold. If only a few products have been sold, you can contact the customers directly and offer them a refund or a replacement of the product. The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation, which can lead people to hire lawyers, investigate further and generally make a bigger deal of something that could have been kept in check with some simple communication.
3. If you have said something regrettable to someone who is now making a public issue of it, apologize to the person directly, which may make the situation go away: sometimes people just need to be heard.
If the issue continues to become more public, consult a public relations professional or company that handles crisis communications. This is not a time to wing it, and professionals can help you create a clear message and make a plan for damage control and containment.
4. If one of your staff members has said something inappropriate to someone, craft a specific response that explains why this is not in accordance with your company policy and how the employee is being reprimanded (or dismissed, in some cases). If you have implemented new policies due to this situation, explain what they are.
We hope you never need this information and that your communications are smooth and effortless.
SIMPLE WAYS TO AVOID CRISES:
Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to see posted all over the Internet. We live in a time when everything we say or do can be blasted to the world via social networking in just a matter of minutes.