Crisis Management 101

By: Alexa Gonzaga

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What are you supposed to do when your organization is in hot water? On March 10, Greg Wise, vice president of global public relations and communications firm Weber Shandwick, spoke to us about how to handle a PR fiasco.

A crisis can happen to any organization, regardless of what field they’re in. According to Wise, it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis occurs, it’s “when.” Wise stresses the importance of being prepared for whatever bad situation arises. “Things happen so quickly in a crisis situation that if you haven’t done things in advance, there’s no time to do it while it’s happening,” Wise said.

Wise spoke of the four phases of handling crisis situations:

Anticipation

The first step is developing a plan to put in place should a crisis occur. You don’t want to be caught off guard. Don’t just wing it – be prepared!

Preparedness

Does the plan work? According to Wise, it’s important to test that plan and see how effective it is. “Today we do crisis drills that are really ‘360,’” Wise said. “We can simulate a crisis where the internal communications team is seeing and living a crisis as it happens. The objective is to create a crisis situation as close to real life as possible.”

Rapid Response

“When a crisis does happen, we want to draw on all the preparation we’ve done beforehand so we can be ready to respond,” Wise said. In other words, now is the time to deploy your plan through various channels. At the end of the day, you should look at what worked and what didn’t and decide on what steps to take next.

Recovery

Once the crisis has passed, it’s time to perform a post-crisis analysis and to make any necessary changes. Ask, how well did your plan work?

Above all, it’s vital for an organization to be truthful with its constituents. Emotion plays a huge role in crises and it’s important to connect with people on that level, rather than just spewing the same statement over and over like a robot. People tend to respond more positively to organizations that show their humanity.

“We all have emotions and we’re going to look at what the company is presenting through the lens of how we feel about it,” Wise said. “It’s important to be authentic and transparent and honest about how you’re handling the crisis.”

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