Learning from others' crises
When I was in college, I took a self defense class during which I learned to ward off an attacker, break a fall, and use common objects to defend myself. Over and over again, the instructor threw me to the ground, attacked me from the front, back, side. We practiced until my reactions were second nature. The point was to be prepared, to learn the moves before an attack occurred. What I did in that class is no different than a company preparing for a crisis.
When a crisis happens to someone else, businesses have many reactions. The first is generally relief – Thank god that didn’t happen to us! Some also express naive denial – Thank god that could never happen to us! What they would be wise to think is – What if something like that did happen to us?
Whenever a crisis happens, I find myself thinking, “What would I have done? How would I have advised that client had I been their public relations counselor?” The media are full of opportunities to exercise this thinking. The mental equivalent of my self defense class.
The rules of crisis communication include: Telling it all. Telling it fast. Keep on telling it. A fourth is to Tell your own story. You can’t always control whether a crisis happens to you, but you can always control how you communicate about it.
It’s easier, I admit, to be on the sidelines for one of these exercises than in the frying pan. On the outside, I don’t have the pressure of media breathing down my neck, the public banging on the social media door, or the CEO and board demanding, what do we do? Being on the outside also means I don’t have all the insider info.
But there are guidelines to successfully navigating a crisis. It’s best if you don’t have to figure out what those moves are after a crisis hits.