Two recent events have brought my attention to Crisis Communications and the flurry of panic that ensues when one finds themselves or their company, the subject of negative attention. Catalyst CC stands by our Triple 'A' approach (Accessibility, Action, Accountability) when coming under negative scrutiny and its effectiveness for CEOs, brands and even politicians.
In both cases, the owners of the company had two choices: Stay quiet, or take control of the impending backlash. I think they both responded well by delivering timely, honest and open statements, neither hiding their viewpoint, but careful to respect any offended parties. They also offered solutions, follow-up or some form of next steps.
Here is the Triple 'A' approach dissected;
Accessible: Make yourself open and approachable - whether welcoming a personal platform to address individual questions, or delivering a message through a very public forum leaving room for comments and posts. Oh, and don't wait a week - you've missed an opportunity to appear that you care, and people have already formed their opinion of you.
Action: Obvious solution: take immediate action and rectify the situation - HOLD up! This would have to be determined case by case. But be warned, once you publicly address an issue, the next question will likely be, 'so what are you doing about that?'. Being genuine and letting people know that you are making moves to review or change a policy or procedure, can go a long way. At least it will bide you time to build a plan.
Accountability: The best way to keep people looking forward, not backwards, is toreinforce any positive steps that your company has taken and share 'the good'. This may require a brief review of key messages - or it may require a complete re-brand (depending on the severity of the situation) Your PR rep can work on building a mini-campaign in order to further solidify your 'best foot forward' and some new strategies on how to keep people associating you with this image down the road.
To summarize: News travels quickly - Address it fast, and move onto brighter messages. Seems like common sense right?...
I should qualify this post by saying that not all news is good news, and you would be wise to discuss with your counsel before coming up with any appropriate response.
Next Steps: Too often, corporations work backwards and spend money on trying to rectify a situation rather than building worst case scenarios into their plan from the beginning. A one day crisis training seminar could prepare staff and management for mulitple scenarios and provide more confidence in dealing with media, customers or the public.