What the recent swine flu outbreak and the resulting pangs of the pork industry teach us, is that there is no substitute for careful listening and quick action. You can NEVER be too prepared when it comes to upholding your brand’s reputation in the marketplace.
Although you can’t anticipate every crisis that comes along, a well thought-out plan that will help you respond to crisis situations is invaluable. It can be the difference between a flicker of a crisis and those big wildfires that seem to take on a life of their own.
Here are some tips to get you going:
1. Set up a mechanism that helps you listen. Companies that closely monitor their reputation online are able to act more efficiently when a problem develops. From the first mention of swine flu in the newspapers, pork producers could have started working to push the H1N1 label.
2. Identify your crisis communications team and develop a mechanism to respond to crisis situations. This includes developing a plan, key messages, crisis kits…
3. Practice and prepare with your team. Provide them with the tools they need to respond and support the people who will be looking for answers. The CDC worked fast to put together this site.
4. When a situation arises, act quickly. This will allow you to manage your message instead of playing defense.
5. First, understand the problem. Then, use the right tools to respond.
6. Never try to lie, deny or hide your involvement. Be honest. Apologize. Check out this article about how Jet Blue earned praises for its crisis response.
7. Finally, work on building trust and community BEFORE issues arrive. That way when a combustible situation arises, you can help educate and reduce fear and anxiety within your community.
Remember – you won’t be able to prepare for every situation that comes your way. But having a mechanism in place that will help you respond will make those frantic days when one does occur a little easier. And remember, your arsonist friends are always here to help!