When a crisis hits, your main goal is to minimize the damage to your organization. But rest assured, even if you don’t feel you’re at fault, your brand is sure to suffer.
However, your crisis response can either mend relationships and cut down on long-term damage, or burn bridges. That’s why having a crisis management plan is so important.
Of course, plan or not, when the day comes and you’re staring the unfortunate event in the face, you’ll have to choose how to respond, and human nature is going to tell you to run and hide. Not literally—although you may wish you could. Have you ever heard a reporter say, “The company could not be reached for a response”?
Better yet, an organization’s spokesperson is being interviewed and hit with some hard questions and he chooses the “no comment” route. Yeah, that’s virtually the same thing as running and hiding. For whatever reason, organizations do it all the time.
Guess how everyone watching or reading that is going to react: “Ugh.” That’s right, they’re going to roll their eyes and assume the worst. The result? Your brand is toast.
It’s kind of like someone who thinks they have a severe illness—say, cancer. They’re scared to confront the issue or to know for sure what’s happening in their body, so they avoid the doctor’s office and fail to receive an official diagnosis. Secretly, they hope the problem fades. However, as we all know, cancer isn’t going to just die off by itself. It requires aggressive, specialized treatment. Otherwise, the cells multiply and spread through the body uncontrollably, consuming everything in their path.
Such is the case with a crisis. You want to believe that your brand name and customer loyalty are strong enough to carry you through the storm. In reality, your customer base deserves to hear from you. If they don’t, you can count on them assuming the worst. Not only that, media outlets will drag your name through the mud.
Work with the media, or become its enemy
The news media might be the strongest force in the entire world. Think about it. They can take a meaningless story, sensationalize it, and send the entire world into upheaval. Case in point, Y2K. Obviously, it turned out to be no issue whatsoever. Yet the “potential” issue received so much coverage that we saw people all over the world raiding supermarket shelves to prepare for doomsday. It was a manufactured crisis, fueled by the media.
I say all that to make this point: You can’t beat the media. Once they sniff blood, they're going in for the kill. So if you give them any reason to believe you’re remotely guilty and trying to hide it, they’re going to make you the next big story—and not the kind of big story you want to be.
Instead, you must do all you can to cooperate. Answer their questions head on, truthfully. The smallest lie is going to be found out and will come back to bite you. Don’t even consider it. It’s not worth it.
Yet companies still try to hide from the media in times of crisis, even though they’ve seen how the story always ends.
Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases and blogs at PR Fuel, where a version of this article originally appeared.