Go to the Bathroom First: 10 Tips for a Crisis
To best meet our clients’ needs, we occasionally add strategic partners to the Curley Company core team. They are experts in their respective fields—and great people with whom we love to work because they share our values, energy and commitment to results. Greg Wilson, among other things, is a crisis PR guru and one of our partners. We asked him to help celebrate our 10th Anniversary by sharing his 10 tips for a crisis.
Be it a product failure, a financial mishap, a natural disaster or an untimely death, crises happen. It’s not IF, but WHEN! Just look at the recent crisis faced by Susan G. Komen For the Cure—an organization that with one misstep and 3 initial days of poor crisis management is still picking up the pieces a month later.
Find below some common and not-so-common tips on what to do first when a crisis breaks.
- Go to the bathroom NOW! You never know when you’ll have another chance. Get some water and a snack. It might be a while!
- Assemble your trusted team. Consider who to have “in the room” to solve and respond to the crisis. Consider both internal and external people. Consider the value of employees with great institutional knowledge. Remember, you always need to have decision-makers available. Consider inviting a trusted “outsider” for a reality check.
- Create a war room. Contain the crisis team in a single room, so the rest of the company can conduct “business as usual”. Block a conference room for the foreseeable future. Attempt to insulate the business of the crisis team from the remainder of the company.
- Plug in your cellphone. A crisis is no time for a dead battery!
- Call your family and significant others. Again, it may be a while.
- Put together a list of your friends and enemies. You may need to contact your friends to speak/act on your behalf. You will certainly need to monitor the words and actions of your enemies.
- Keep your eye on the big picture. Ask yourself periodically, as the issues unfold, what’s the best and worst possible outcome? Where do you think you are now? What can move the needle?
- Find a good writer. It is always important to have the services of someone who can boil down ideas to concise thoughts. Use your PR team even if you don’t think you’ll be doing PR. Allow them to facilitate the group, capturing ideas and phrases.
- Brief your receptionist immediately – or whomever answers your phones. He/she is likely to have the first contact with media, shareholders, employees … and be asked questions. Make sure your protocol is clear, what he/she should say, and to whom he/she should direct inquiries.
- Communicate what you can periodically. Sooner is always better than later. Only communicate what you know absolutely. Set firm deadlines for future communications. Consider all stakeholders – customers, shareholders, regulators, lawmakers, media, employees. Give a consistent message – always sing from the same hymnal.
Greg Wilson has more than 20 years of experience in public relations, public affairs, government relations and lobbying. He specializes in crisis communications, corporate communications, and digital reputation management.