Crisis, what crisis?
Although the majority of crises start out as ill thought remarks – think Andrew Mitchell and whether he called police officers “plebs” and Governor Romney’s now infamous 47% comment – and it’s clear that without considered and decisive action any slip can quickly snowball, and overshadowing other arguably more important issues.
It’s important to remember that crisis management isn’t necessarily about making a problem go away. Instead it’s about clearing a path through the woods so that you make it out the other end with the least amount of collateral damage.
Below are the three golden rules of managing a crisis anyone involved in positions of power would be wise to remember:
1. Don’t be rushed into saying too much too fast. Although a crisis requires an authority figure to be seen to take firm hold of a situation, always consolidate the facts and consider what action is to be taken before saying something you might come to regret. Holding statements are a useful tool in helping to appease the sometimes frenzied demand for instant comment or information from the press and put paid to the rumour mill which moves at breakneck speed in the social media age. Every company should have holding statements prepared for different eventualities, and also have a plan on who needs to drop what they are doing and come together to decide on the best steps forward.
2. Sense the mood. While a strong defence of a company or situation might be the ‘go-to’ option to save face it’s imperative to acknowledge public sentiment. “We are disappointed to hear of the accusations made against us” is more likely to diffuse anger than “We refute entirely the accusations made against us”, even if you believe this to be the case initially. It can take time for the full facts to emerge. And also, taking an objective view of a situation can be hard from within the confines of a company and is something an external agency can help with.
3. Actions speak louder than words. If you want to make sure a problem is dealt with and will not recur, then following through with what you say is a must. Claiming you intend to get to the bottom of a problem is all well and good but how are you going to ensure the same problem doesn’t happen again? Details of new workplace processes or an external investigation that will suggest changes will add credence to your assurances.
Image: “Man Sitting With Problems” by Master isolated image, FreeDigitalPhotosnet