David Sease, of Sease, Gerig & Associates, recently spoke to the Morgan County Economic Development Industrial Roundtable on the topic of crisis communications. The Martinsville Chamber felt that the information presented would be valuable to all of our members, as crisis situations can happen in any setting. Thank you to Mr. Sease for graciously agreeing to share his tips with us.
TEN TIPS WHEN THINKING ABOUT CRISIS MANAGEMENT
1. Crises can come in many forms and can be defined in various ways. The dictionary defines a crisis as: an unstable condition in which an abrupt or decisive change is impending; a turning point.
2. Be prepared. Develop a crisis communication plan, and form a crisis management team. Keep the plan updated and accessible to senior management and members of the team. Regardless whether all or parts of the plan are used, evaluate and edit it.
3. It’s important to build relationships in advance (media, public safety personnel, neighbors).
4. Communication is key. Recognize the various audiences; prioritize. It’s imperative to be proactive, not reactive. Lasting perceptions are set in the first 24 – 48 hours. Disclose the bad news yourself — it will come out anyhow. Recognize the quickness of social media.
5. Have specific objectives in mind before communicating with anybody. Rehearse the general outline of your messages. Keep the story simple, direct and frequent so all are informed of your progress. Tell your target audiences what you’re going to do, do it and then tell them how you did it.
6. Be forthcoming before a minor difficulty becomes major. Tell the truth. The truth is rarely as bad as the rumors. Tell what you can document. Be factual; don’t be drawn into speculation or laying blame.
7. It’s important to be reasonably accessible to all who are affected. Reflect an attitude of openness and caring, especially for victims. If there are victims, say what you will do to relieve their anguish.
8. Expect fairness from the media. Keep in mind, though, that they see their job as trying to uncover all aspects of the news, including determining fault. Normally, human error is especially newsworthy.
9. Do not say “no comment” – it can be misunderstood. If you are unable to answer a question because you don’t know or are trying to verify, say so. But get back to reporters once an answer is found.
10. Do the right thing. Your integrity is of utmost importance. History is filled with companies that have erred, made corrections, communicated and survived.