Many consider the Equifax cybersecurity breach that compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans, to be a PR nightmare. "After detecting the hack, Equifax waited SIX WEEKS before it alerted the public last week. Rather than notifying people who were affected, it set up a website that wasn't ready for days," CNN Money reports.
Most businesses and brands need a crisis communication plan, and a strong team to implement it when a crisis hits. The rule is, tell the truth, tell it first, tell it all.
Here are the top tips from 2017 Columbus Startup Week Crisis Communication panelists.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLAN
Hire someone to help you create a plan. It’s like insurance for your business and well worth the money. There are a lot of good consultants – pay one.
- Assess your vulnerabilities – this is the first step.
- Craft your team: Consultant, spokespersons, coordinators, legal experts.
- Have a plan for the first minutes, hours, days and weeks.
- Bring in experts to determine who is speaking when about what.
- Create good will and engagement with your key audiences, including the media – before you need them. Consider reporters, bloggers, social influencers – share information and build trust.
- Plan for how you will interact with people in social spaces.
- Do everything you can to avoid a “hair on fire” situation.
- Remember: As the business owner, you are a subject matter expert in your area.
WHEN A CRISIS HITS
- Remain calm.
- Avoid reacting and overreacting. Many business owners react emotionally even when they shouldn’t.
- Avoid being defensive or offensive.
- Seek help and advice – don’t go it alone.
- Be ready to look closely to determine if it’s really a crisis or just feels like one.
- A crisis has the potential to harm the brand, the public or both. Always act on behalf of the public good.
- Select the right internal spokespersons to be assigned to different aspects of communication.
- Plan the work and work the plan.
- Be more strategic about how you communicate.
- Make all of your responses personal – this will be very time consuming, and you’ll need help. Read every comment, and be sure people know they are heard. In some cases, you’ll need to respond to every single person.
- Even if you don’t know everything yet, communicate that.
- Be ready to address the things that lead to the crisis so it never happens again. Ask the tough questions.
- Handle yourself with integrity – show that you are a person of character and that you can be resilient.
- If it happens to a competitor, always use this as an opportunity to 1. Learn 2. Show grace to that person or team.
- Tell the story without repeating the negative. Negative tweet? Don’t keep repeating it. Respond with the solution. Direct the conversation to “what’s next” and what rapid, appropriate or corrective steps are being taken.
If you need a good referral to a crisis communication specialist, contact us. We can help.
Copyright, 2017, Tracy L. Teuscher, APR