By Elizabeth Boineau
Take a step back and evaluate where you are. Search the net to see what may already be out there.
Identify the crisis communications team, including the CEO, the public relations firm crisis media consultant and legal counsel, as appropriate.
Always be honest, open, and accessible. A cover –up job, or holding back information, particularly that may rightfully be public information is not acceptable, so tell the truth, tell it fast, and tell it well.
Pull your message/talking points and prepared statement together and get everyone on the same page. Consistency of voice is critical.
Identify the spokesperson and get them ready for the interview. Anticipate the worst questions you could get and write down the answers as part of the preparation. Consider a “public” FAQ too if the situation warrants that.
Show compassion and concern for the situation. Considerthose who may be hurt and detail what you’re doing to ensure it never happens again.
Always answer media calls and feel comfortable asking what questions they want answered, and ask for their deadline. Gather the info and get back to them like it’s urgent, because it is. You’re trying to protect your reputation and your brand image, so cooperate, but be prepared. It’s OK to ask for a little time, but they’re on a deadline.
Never, for any reason, say no comment. Better to say “I wish I was able to give you the information you’re seeking, and we hope to be able to do that soon. For now, the situation is under review and we are working as hard as we can to get the facts and get them out to you,” is one example.
Never underestimate the value of solid media relationships. The more you respect them, the more they respect you and will work to help tell your story. They genuinely want to do that, so work cooperatively and positively at all times, even when you’re feeling the heat.
Tap your website and social media channels. Use your “owned media” platform to get information out and to monitor what’s being said out in the field.
And one more for good measure should the crisis involves a legal matter: PR and legal counsel can and do get along, and when they work together for the best media strategy, everybody wins.
Elizabeth L. Boineau runs E. Boineau & Company, a strategic marketing communications and public relations firm based in Charleston. She has extensive PR and crisis communications experience, in her own agency and with large global PR firms. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.