This article comes from Entrepreneur.
I’ve read countless textbooks about crisis management, but I’m usually left disappointed at the lack of common sense. Here’s what you need to know.
Make a list of the five most likely things that could go wrong — and at least a couple of unlikely things — that would cause your business big problems. If you own a pizza restaurant, it could be an infestation of rats, a rude waiter upsetting customers or a rival pizza restaurant opening on the next block. Take the emotion out of things by imagining that you’re giving advice to a friend, then plan how you should respond to each problem. Pick the spokespeople who can communicate with customers, the media and any investors you may have.
A simple and sincere apology will often calm even the angriest of customers. However, a word of warning: It’s crucial that the apology comes from you, the boss, not via a carefully worded statement on your company’s website or Twitter feed. Apart from being the right thing to do as a human being, it shows that you understand the customer’s pain, anger or disappointment. It can also help stop the story from escalating on social media or in the media. Also, if possible, publicly commit to find out what happened and promise that it won’t happen again.
In my experience, PRs are often too defensive when it comes to how their client deals with the media, especially in a crisis. They play it ultra-safe and encourage the client not to say anything remotely clear, interesting or honest, in case it affects the reputation or profits of the business. The irony is that the public are crying out for leadership and honesty from politicians and business. Take responsibility for what has gone wrong and act.
Provide a helpline or other form of support for affected customers if necessary. That way, no matter how unexpected or disrupted the situation, you already have the procedures and personnel to respond. Make realistic promises that you can keep, find out what went wrong, publish any review into events afterwards and stick to lessons learned.
Even the most experienced and resilient can become like a deer in the headlights. It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by the pace of events, the media feeding frenzy. The fear, anger and uncertainty can feel all-consuming. I appreciate that you must react promptly to a crisis, but that doesn’t mean you should rush. As I half-jokingly say to my clients, take decisions in a brisk but unhurried manner.
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