By Robert Cadogan, Managing Director, Cadogan Communications
Let's consider for a moment that in the course of running your daily business a situation arises instantly that quickly forms into a crisis beyond your control. In fact, it manifests itself as a complete surprise which is either a result of failing to anticipate the scenario, or the inability to recognize and manage the situation at hand. Regardless, the speed of reporting negative news can be overwhelming. Why? Simply put, the interaction of traditional media, social media, public policymakers, activist groups and plaintiff attorneys have taken adversarial scrutiny to new heights with remarkable speed.
Communications expert will all agree, we face a diverse spectrum of potential crises combined with a deeply-narrow window of opportunity to successfully manage those scenarios. For instance, increased corporate attention to compliance and enterprise risk management is crucial to managing vulnerabilities, but nothing can make an organization crisis-proof. When a crisis hits, effective response requires unprecedented levels of preparation, swiftness, foresight, and agility.
At Cadogan Communications, we believe seven principles, if applied rigorously, can carry an organization successfully through a crisis:
1. Put public health and safety first. A simple but fundamental rule for any crisis involving a threat to life or health. It also reflects the fact that what’s best for public health and safety also will be in the company’s best long-term interests.
2. Respond to stakeholder perceptions and expectations
3. Take appropriate “ownership” of the crisis. Ownership means knowing where your stakeholders think the buck stops.
4. Communicate immediately. In a world of information overload, immediately means now! Delay in communication will be perceived as lack of concern, confusion, or worse, an attempt to stonewall. Often, an initial statement need only demonstrate that the organization is aware, concerned, and taking tangible action.
5. Lead the target. Focus the response not only where the crisis is now, but where it is going.
6. Be honest and transparent.
7. Beware the false dawn of premature recovery. Simple lack of front-page coverage does not mean the crisis is no longer top- of-mind.
In closing, there are no panaceas when it comes to crisis resolution, each possesses its own strategy, but preparation and foresight allows for a step in a positive direction.