A few members of the thunder::tech team recently attended a training session presented by Bruce Hennes of Hennes Communications on crisis communications and reputation management. The session was hosted by Destination Cleveland and communications professionals from many different industries were in attendance.
While no one ever wants to think about the “What ifs” in life, it’s extremely important to ensure that your company, and ultimately your brand, is prepared for anything.
In today’s fast-paced, real-time oriented world, even something seemingly small can go viral, turn into something big and quickly spiral out of control in seconds. What’s your plan of action? How do you manage the scenario? Who should speak on behalf of your organization? What should they say? What shouldn’t they say? Have they been trained to be mindful of their body language?
You can do your best to prevent things from happening, but at some point, somewhere, sometime, a crisis is going to happen and you need to be ready. What you say and the speed at which you respond are crucial. Now that we have you completely freaked out, stressed and panicky, (insert evil laugh here) we want to share a few basic takeaways from the crisis communications session to help navigate a crisis.
1. Tell the truth.
Ever heard of the saying, “The truth shall set you free?” It’s spot on. Bruce recommends coming clean and telling the truth. Don't attempt to deny the obvious; it won’t help your case. The truth WILL come out.
2. Tell it first.
This is your chance to set the tone. You can control more of the story if you are the one telling it. So tell it first and let it be your words, not someone else’s, like the media, because if they get it wrong, well, there’s a chance they won’t correct it or if they do, it could already be too late as news spreads like a wildfire.
3. Tell it all.
Hey, you’re already telling the truth and possibly fessing up, so you may as well tell the WHOLE truth. Again, as was stated in takeaway No. 1, the truth will come out, so tell it and tell it all. There is, however, a caveat to this one. Tell it all if it's legal, moral and ethical. Sometimes, based on the situation, you may not legally be able to tell the whole truth (i.e. HIPPA rules, confidentiality reasons), so know your legal obligations well before speaking.
4. Return reporters phone calls in a timely manner.
Reporters, whether in print, online or on the air, have deadlines to meet and they will meet them with or without comment from you. Few things are worse for a brand than being seemingly uncooperative during a crisis. “[Insert your company] had no comment” or “[Insert your company] could not be reached for comment” only serve to make people assume the worst and place the blame on you. Every good story needs a villain, don’t cast yourself in that role. Here again, there are exceptions in the rarest of instances, so if you’re not sure what to do, it’s always best to consult with the experts. We know a guy
5. The media filters everything.
Whether it’s intentional filtering or not could be debated at length, but at the end of the day the fact remains that the media will filter what you say for content, time, etc. Know that going in. Keep your comments simple, sound-bite worthy and on-point. Don’t dance around the issue.
So this begs the question, “How can we get your words out to people with the least filtering possible?” Well there are a few ways.
6. Keep in mind: It's not the job of reporters to inform or educate.
If you’re going to do TV, live TV is best. This lets you say what you need without an editor leaving your best points on the cutting room floor (yeah, we know they don’t produce TV like that, but you get the point, right?)
Bruce mentions an acronym he uses: POTS. This stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. Make a call. Say what you need to say. Give them the story straight from the horse’s mouth.
Social media can be your friend. It’s an opportunity for you to self-publish your perspective with the proper time to craft the message and reache an audience that is already engaged with your brand. Your social media audience is one that you should care a heck of a lot about because you’ve already started forming a relationship.
Email is another opportunity to reach that core audience you’re already engaged with. It’s also a simple platform that allows those stakeholders to help you tell your side because, like social media, it’s easy to spread that message by forwarding it on.
Wait, what?! Crazy thought, but it’s true. It’s the reporter’s job to tell stories
. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fiction, but it means the story has to be interesting and engaging. So, give the reporter the truth and also what the people want. Give them a hero story, the beginnings of a great feature article or tell that horse race story complete with rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.
So, now that you know all this, what does it really boil down to? What do you do if a reporter calls?
-Tell the truth.
-Keep it short.
-Make your point simple and positive.
-Talk about solutions.
-Anticipate the questions.
We learned so much from this session and now feel well-equipped to help navigate thunder::tech and our clients through a crisis, should one ever occur. We also sleep better at night knowing that if something becomes more than we can handle, we can look to Hennes Communications to steer us through the storm.
If you’d like to learn more, check out Hennes Communications at www.crisiscommunications.com or give us a shout. We’d love to tell you more about what we learned!