Join Laura Bergells for an in-depth discussion in this video Responding quickly and confidently, part of Crisis Communication.
- Imagine that you own a small restaurant. One morning, someone posts online that they think they may have gotten food poisoning by eating dinner at your place the night before. A possible threat to public health? A hit to your reputation and financial viability? You need to respond quickly and confidently. If you don't, let's briefly discuss what's likely to happen. Might people see the post and publicly ask your customer about all the grisly details? Might they start sharing their own food poisoning stories, associating your business with bad experiences that have nothing to do with your restaurant? Now, imagine that a few hours go by and you haven't responded.
People in your community start to feel curious or anxious. They might wonder what you're trying to hide. They've gone online repeatedly to see what you've had to say for yourself. And since you haven't said anything, they start to speculate that maybe something must be terribly wrong. A local news reporter sees an online controversy brewing and decides to visit your restaurant with a video camera and a list of hard questions. You have a narrow window of opportunity to respond to a crisis. When people learn of a possible threat to public health, they deserve truthful information fast.
A lack of response creates an information vacuum that can quickly fill with speculation, rumors, misinformation, and outright attacks. Responding quickly and confidently can help your organization present its side of the story with factual information in an appropriate tone. An early response may not have much in the way of substance or new information. It may include little more than a truthful online statement, like: "We're aware of the situation. "We take food poisoning seriously "and are working with both the Health Department "and the customer to resolve the issue.
"We'll keep you posted when we find out more information." Responding Quickly positions you as a source for facts and information. It also shows that you are involved and concerned. A quick and confident response can do more than help quell damaging rumors. It can also signal that you care about the people and the community you serve. Whether you're a giant multinational corporation or a small town restaurant, getting in front of a breaking story in an always-on news cycle is critical.
It helps set the tone and direction of any communications surrounding a crisis. When a threat to your reputation goes public you'll want to respond within one hour. Even more quickly if possible. Take a look at the list of 10 threats that might impact your organization. Is this list representative of your most likely threats? What other threats might be likely to impact your organization? By thinking through likely threats before they happen, you'll be in a position to respond quickly and confidently should a crisis ever arise.
A quick and confident response can go a long way to fill an information vacuum, as well as restore your reputation and reestablish public trust and a feeling of goodwill.
- Define crisis.
- Explain how to respond quickly and confidently.
- Identify different audiences in crisis.
- Assess technical and physical resources.
- Describe how to establish a chain of command.
- Develop hold statements.
- Identify how to avoid common crisis response mistakes.
- Review your crisis communication response.