All leaders hope they never have to deal with a significant crisis that has the potential to destroy a company. That said, it’s the smart leaders who are prepared and have a well thought-out (and documented) plan in advance of a crisis situation.
When a crisis hits, the last thing you should do is “wing it.” We’ve all seen this happen through the years … you know, those cringe-worthy moments when a CEO answers questions related to a company crisis and is completely (and obviously) unprepared.
With that in mind, it may be time to develop an action plan in the event of a public relations crisis that impacts your company. The natural tendency is to jump into decisions to protect your company reputation. However, that should never be the sole motivation in your leadership decisions during a crisis situation.
It’s important to understand the immediate elements that will impact you as the leader and what actions can make things go horribly wrong. If you understand what these are, you are better equipped to create plans and contingencies to deal with them.
When crisis happens, the leader (or leaders) will be under immediate stress. Their stress will derive from sudden spotlight, the need for fast answers, and the potential revenue loss for the company. Decisions made in this state can be risky.
When a crisis happens, it will seem as if everything is happening at lightning speed. The spotlight is on, public attention is focused, and time is of the essence. Decisions made under the duress of time can be costly, if not well thought-out.
When a crisis happens, the “right” people may not be immediately available and unprepared people might be called on to step into leadership roles and answer questions. Decisions and statements made by unprepared people can be catastrophic.
When a crisis happens, the media may be there wanting answers and looking to blame someone. Anything said to the media that hasn’t been prepared in advance can be devastating to a company.
It’s important to consider these four factors when creating your plan. They are all outside of your control, to a certain extent, but understanding them can help you work through a plan in advance of a crisis.
When a crisis hits, one of the first things you need to do as the leader is get control of the internal chaos. Your team will immediately look to you and watch how you react and respond. They will likely have as much concern for their jobs as you do for the impact of the crisis on company revenue and reputation. It’s imperative that you calm your team and bring them on board with your plan. Give them clear instructions and show strength. Without your team fully on board, the management of the crisis will be much more complicated.
As you develop your public communication plan, it’s important to follow a proven model. There are several studies around effective crisis communication for leaders, so do your due diligence and select a model that suites you. One to consider is the Gigliotti, R.A. & Fortunato, J.A. (2017) model, which outlines six critical components to effective crisis leadership.
According to Gigliotti and Fortunato, you must be:
As the leader, it’s important that you have the ability to react quickly and effectively. This comes from having a plan in advance of the crisis. A plan that is prepared, yet adaptable. You also need to show genuine empathy for real (and perceived) victims of the crisis. Do not attempt to divert blame or make excuses. Accepting responsibility for fixing or correcting the situation is imperative. While doing this, it’s critical that you remain positive, resilient, transparent, and trustworthy.
Don’t have a plan to make this happen in the unlikely event of a crisis? It’s time to put that plan together – your company is depending on you!
If you’re ready to take your business and leadership skills to the next level, and if you think your business could benefit from more insights like what’s offered in this article, let’s start a conversation. LXCouncil may be the perfect next step!
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