Negative publicity can happen at any time to an organization. Thinking through your next steps before a potential crisis occurs can save time, money and reputation. Recognize that these tough situations occur and you have options on how handle times when these incidents occur. Helpful tips to manage a crisis include:
• Preventing negative publicity
The best way to prevent negative publicity is to identify the issue and report it yourself. Making an announcement prior to the media discovering or discussing the issue gives you control over the narrative and allows you an opportunity to provide solutions and possibly minimize the sensationalized nature of the story.
• Crisis positioning
It is important to have an agreed upon position when addressing negative publicity. Expressing sympathy for anyone who is hurt or killed is vital in these situations. After that, develop a set of positioning statements that best describe, without speculating, what misstep occurred. Statements can include:
- Human error
- Clerical error
- Inadequate supervision
- Unauthorized procedures
Keep in mind the legal, financial, administrative, public relations, community and operations ramifications of your position. Once you choose a position, stick to it for all communications. Create a prepared statement. Along with stating a position, also discuss your plan of action to correct or stabilize the situation.
• Make a plan
Develop a crisis protocol prior to a negative event occurring. In a perfect world, negative publicity never happens but in the real world, anything can happen. Be prepared! Take the following steps to craft a straightforward plan of attack:
Designate a spokesperson. Who will speak on your behalf? Make sure that person is trained to deal with the media and answer questions with little or no preparation for the type of questions they may encounter. The media will not send you pre-approved list of questions and no aspect of the organization will be off limits in a crisis situation.
Consider the legal implications. Consult your legal team and determine what you can say or not say to the media. They will have recommendations for best practices that suit your company’s needs.
Try to neutralize the situation. How a crisis situation is handled will reflect on the organization. Maintain composure, show sincerity and express sympathy to those affected. This is one of the best ways to try to neutralize the media interest.
Negative publicity is never an easy situation to deal with but burying your head in the sand and pretending it cannot happen to your organization is not reasonable or responsible. Being prepared can minimize the damage to your organization’s reputation and start the process to moving past the incident.
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