Let’s face it: At some point, your business likely will experience some kind of crisis — whether a product recall, data breach, disgruntled employees or something else entirely. Taking a proactive approach and planning ahead for such potentialities is a great first step. But it’s easy to plan and strategize before crisis strikes. It’s completely different when you’re in full-on crisis mode.
When a crisis hits, information and emotions may be coming at us fast and furious, leaving us overwhelmed, frozen with indecision or contemplating irrational behaviors that can lead to mistakes or a mishandling of the situation. If you find yourself in the midst of a full-blown business crisis, first, take a breath. Next, be sure to avoid these six mistakes.
6 Don’ts During a Crisis
- Don’t Forget Your Crisis Response Plan: What was all that planning and strategizing for if not this exact type of situation? Plans aren’t just meant to sit on a shelf and collect dust. Grab that crisis response plan you so diligently put together in less catastrophic times — and put it to work for you. Having a detailed plan to consult helps break through those moments of doubt or fear. Remember, you planned for this. Take it one step at a time.
- Don’t Ignore the Problem: Sticking your head in the sand and paying no attention to the issue in hopes that it magically goes away is not a solid plan of action. By ignoring the crisis or dragging your feet on a proper response, you risk even greater fallout from it. Denial of the problem can allow any potential effects to spread beyond what otherwise may be manageable. Also, by choosing to ignore the crisis, you essentially give up control of it and your ability to resolve it with little lasting impact to your reputation. The internet never forgets. And neither will your critics.
- Don’t Lie: This should go without saying, but again, when going through an emergency or crisis, we often lose our grasp of common sense. So, it bears repeating: Don’t lie, mislead or tell half-truths. When navigating a crisis, dishonesty will only exacerbate the issue. Instead, be up front and truthful. Acknowledge the crisis and lay out the steps your business is (or will be) taking to rectify the issue. Don’t promise the moon but be concise and realistic.
- Don’t Forget to Communicate with Employees: When disaster strikes, too often employees are left behind, learning about the issue from other sources (social media, TV, news, etc.). Avoid this by communicating early and often with employees up and down the organizational chain. Inform them of the issue and steps being taken to address it. It’s also a good idea to provide some guidelines or talking points for employees to use during interactions with their professional networks, friends, family and others. Employees are (or should be) your best advocates. So, empower them with the information and resources to help the business maneuver the crisis successfully.
- Don’t Disrespect Customers: Emotions invariably run high during a crisis. Impacted customers (and others) may be spewing some nasty things at you or your business during an emergency. But while it may be tempting to fire back a well-crafted insult or retort — don’t. Instead, you must give into your better angels. Focus on fixing the problem and resolving the issue for customers impacted by the crisis. Remember: Your reputation is on the line and up for grabs. Biting back at negatively impacted or disgruntled customers will only serve to reinforce any negative perceptions people may have about you or your business.
- Don’t Forget to Document Your Response: From the outset of any crisis, be sure to keep a detailed record of your response. Everything from the initial statement you issued to a list of the employees who served as a crisis response team should be included. This record will allow you to take stock as part of a post-crisis assessment and glean any lessons for future crises. You will want to incorporate these lessons learned into your response plan.
If you have a pulse, you will likely face a crisis of some kind at some point. Dealing with such events is never fun and can be overwhelming — but keeping a clear head, following your response plan and avoiding the mistakes mentioned above will help limit any long-term fallout or harm to your company and its reputation.
Learn more about crisis communication services with Aker Ink.