Blogger: Sarah Hansen (Space Coast Chapter)
Crisis Communications 101
Presented by: Kyle Parks, Principal, B2 Communications
“The best crisis management defuses the situation before it becomes a major issue.”
In the casual and informative breakout session 5 Keys to Communicating in a Crisis, Kyle Parks with B2 Communications shared valuable steps to managing crises, emphasizing ways to successfully communicate and find resolutions. He also gave tips for creating a dynamic crisis plan and handling the media.
1. Address the Issue. When an unexpected situation happens at your company, don’t shy away from facing the issue head on. Kyle shared the story of the Jim Walter Resources mining accident Sept. 23, 2001, and that the first internal reaction was, “we’re shutting the gates and not speaking with the media about this.” Many of us may feel this way when confronted with a crisis, but ignoring the issue could make things worse.
It’s also important to befriend your company’s lawyers in these situations. Get to know them and help them understand the basics of modern crisis communications. If the CEO of your company is listening to anyone, they’re listening to the lawyer, so having their support is invaluable.
2. Show You Care. Don’t just say, “We’re care deeply about this.” DO something tangible that displays you care about the issue and that you’re taking concrete steps to fixing it.
3. Take Action. Don’t wait for the problem to resolve itself. If you don’t already have a plan in place, then take action and get the word the out internally so everyone is on the same page. If you work for an agency, then be there with your client finding the solution.
4. Fix The Problem. As stated earlier, be sure to take tangible steps toward fixing the crisis whenever possible and SHOW the public that you are doing this. If you’re already getting bad press, then write a press release outlining what you’re doing to handle the issue. Then you can post it to your website, share it on social and boost it! Counter the bad press with your response to their articles and communicate with your audience/customers.
5. Be ready next time! There’s always a better way to handle a crisis. As the communications representative at your company, it’s important to lead the discussion and review of what went well vs. what went wrong. If you don’t already have a crisis plan, then create one. If you do have a plan, then amend it.
“A crisis plan is only as good as whether you use it or not.”
What goes into a crisis communications plan? How can you prepare?
- Keep it simple. Realistically, no one is going to read a 30-page plan.
- Make a list of the top 3-5 situations likely to occur and create a simple bulleted list of how you handle it. You don’t have to think of every scenario, but this will help your team stay on the same page during a crisis.
- Make it a logistical plan for communicating externally and internally.
- Create a phone and/or email tree within the company.
- Determine who your audience is and how you can reach them.
- Get your client (if an agency) or head of the company on board with your plan.
Tips for handling the media during a crisis.
- Keep it short: Media want the facts, so give those to them and embrace the silence.
- You don’t have to answer a question as long as you have a good reason.
- NOTHING is off the record. If you haven’t already, then it’s important to do media training with your spokesperson to prepare them for interviews. Remind them that if they don’t want it published, then they shouldn’t say it during a media interview.
I’ve listed the top two questions from the Q&A session below:
Q: How can we manage a crisis when there’s multiple parties/companies involved? Esp. when there may different approaches.
A: Form the relationship before something happens and discuss the approach together. Review previous situations and how they could have gone better. If there’s no way to plan this ahead of time, then be ready to mitigate.
Q: What are the best ways to leverage social media in a crisis?
A: Be succinct and short while still saying something with value. Make it real, make it specific. Discuss something tangible. Be ready for comments and manage those. Don’t spend all the time in a crisis to counter the crazy posters out there. Mitigate it and explain to your followers. Know that the majority of people understand your mission and point.
Kyle Parks is a principal of B2 Communications, one of the top public relations agencies in the Tampa Bay area. Parks entered the PR industry after a distinguished career in journalism, which included senior editing and reporting positions with the Tampa Bay Times. In addition to his work at B2 Communications, he has handled crisis communications for a deadly coal mining accident, a violent employee strike and serious environmental problems.