And if it wasn't a Hostile Climate, It wouldn't be a crisis!

  1. Don't Cause The Crisis!
  2. Crisis Are Not Always On The Front Page!
  3. Crisis Management Is NOT A Public Relations Problem!
  4. Lawyers Rule!
  5. Crisis Management Begins Before The Crisis - With a Plan!
  6. Who Can Manage YOUR Crisis?
Don't Cause The Crisis!
There is a difference between the situation and the crisis.  A very large percentage of crises are created or exacerbated by bad management.  There are several things to avoid at the onset.
  1. Don't hit the crisis button before there is a reasonable and rational situation analysis.  By triggering an official crisis management response, or taking up a crisis mode, the client automatically signals "crisis" to the outside world, and actually creates the crisis atmosphere.  This does not mean to suggest that quick response is not a critical factor.  There is a difference between an ineffective initial response and an inappropriate initial response, however.
  2. Don't succumb to "Chicken Little" reaction.  In any potential difficult situation, there is a tendency to assume the worst, and take a very pessimistic view of the possible outcomes.  Crisis management is the art and skill of guiding a situation to the most positive outcomes.
  3. Don't be defensive.  Crisis usually means a sense of being attacked or under siege.  This does not mean that management should be, or even appear to be, on the defensive.  In case s of fatal disaster, for example, it is important for the client to be sensitive to the human suffering, and to take positive steps to aide the injured and bereaved.
  4. Don't assume anything . . . and don't answer unless you are certain.  Crisis management 101 does a good job of explaining why lies tend to be counterproductive, so we won't dwell on the "tell the truth" admonition.  Less appreciated is the problem of the honest misstatement.
Crisis Are Not Always On The Front Page!
One of the most often overlooked aspects of crisis management is that a crisis may not be of great interest to the public-at-large.  Fires, explosions and food poisonings grab media attention.  They are disasters in public terms because they are visible, spectacular and often involve human injury or death.  They are disasters for the company because they usually involve substantial economic or market share losses.  The interest of corporate management -- and the underlying goal of crisis management -- is to protect the stockholders from undue losses.

There are, however, events that can greatly impact on the corporate bottom line that are not cause for a crisis management approach -- and they should be.  Often legislative regulatory actions, taxes, court decisions or other government decisions have an extraordinary impact on the performance of the company.  Yet, these actions are often handled in the normal course of business.  Crisis management evaluation and consideration should come into play in such cases.  Time after time, industries -- especially petrochemical and pharmaceutical -- fail to meet the challenge of regulatory disaster in the same deliberate approach they may apply to a physical disaster.  Crisis management should not be determined solely by the visibility of the disaster, but by the impact on the performance of the corporation.

Crisis Management Is Not A Public Relations Problem!
There is a widely held misconception that crisis management is a means of managing the flow and formulation of public opinion -- that is a "perception" issue.  In fact, traditional public relations firms are almost exclusive in their offering of crisis management to the PR department without recognizing the fact that product/service publicity or communication tools and skills may be employed in the latter.

Crisis management is a multidiscipline issue, and one that takes a very specialized advisory expertise.  When, how and what to publicity communicate is a matter of carefully developed strategies that must evolve out of the situation and in conjunction with all components of the crisis.  It is one of the reasons crisis management is best handled by public affairs, or communication firms with specialized public affairs divisions -- firms with a history of involvement in legal issues and an understanding of legal considerations.  Firms involved with political candidates are potentially good crisis management advisors because campaigns ARE exercises in crisis management on a day-to-day basis.  Public affairs also brings experience in government relations, and virtually every crisis has a government liaison component -- at the height of the crisis and in the aftermath:  coordination of government services, regulatory response, and legal action.

Lawyers Rule!
While there is often a corporate tug-o-war between the legal and public relations departments, with lawyers tending to remain too secretive and public relations executives tending to talk too much, in the crisis management mode, lawyers must have final authority on public output.  Apart from the humane and operational aspects of the crisis, there is the inevitable question of liability.  Liability is not an issue that can be held in abeyance until after the crisis.  This becomes critical if the crisis moves from the "event" stage to the courtroom.  If the crisis or public controversy is a matter of litigation, then it is incumbent on the lawyers to supplement their team with competent public affairs counsel.
Crisis Management Begins Before The Crisis - With A Plan!
Creating and maintaining a crisis management plan is like telling people to "save" the computer work frequently.  Too often the advice is ignored until the "disaster" hits.  We all tend to learn lessons the hard way.
Who Can Manage YOUR Crisis?
  • Crisis Management is best handled by those with experience.
  • Bigger is not better.
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