The Reality of Crisis Communications
By Andy Likes, TVG Vice President
Throughout my 20+ years in broadcast journalism and public relations, unfortunately I’ve seen my share of crisis issues. They happen every single day. I tell my crisis communications training classes that it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis happens, but “when.” Whether you are part of a small non-profit organization or a major multi-national corporation, you are vulnerable. Whether it’s an employee issue, cyber-attack, lawsuit, natural disaster or someone else’s issue, it’s only a matter of time before your reputation is on the line for one reason or another. I recently wrote an article for a chapter in the new PRnews Writer’s Guidebook discussing exactly this. The biggest issue in a crisis is time!
We have clients come to TVG in one of three phases of a crisis: pre-event, mid- event, and post-event. The clients who come to us before a crisis happens are being proactive. They want us to help write a plan, create messages and draft template press releases before things go bump in the night. They may or may not see a crisis on the horizon, but they know anything can happen. Other clients call us mid-crisis, or after the crisis is over for reputation management and overall communications. However, it’s that pre-event time that can save you three things; time, money, and frustration. Planning ahead saves you time. It’s easier to write a plan and use it as your guidebook when bad things happen, rather than “wing it” and assess things as they occur. Planning takes preparation. Yes, it also takes time, but a fraction of the time versus the time you spend on a crisis when it happens. Having a succinct, understandable plan that is easy to find and viewer-friendly, can also be the key to rebuilding your reputation after the crisis is over. Having the right messages that are timely and well-delivered helps build trust with employees, the media and the public, no matter what the issue may be. Holding information back because you don’t know everything may seem easy, but it’s not the best way to handle a crisis. Give all the information you have at the time and say you’ll be back with more when you have it. Think of it like ripping off a bandage—it might hurt initially, but the quicker you respond, the quicker the crisis will be over. Ultimately you want to get from the crisis to the post-event stage, rebuilding your reputation, as quickly as possible. That all begins with the crisis plan and having your team ready for anything.
TVG has been helping companies in all three stages of a crisis for more than 20 years.