In a perfect world the organizations we lead remain trouble free and we never have to justify our actions and prove our integrity. Obviously, such a world does not exist so we must be prepared to protect our entities and have a plan of action in place for the inevitable future trying times. Many corporations have a pricey crisis management team or outsourced retainer on hand to help them in their time of need.
If this is not something that you have budgeted for no need to fear. You can prevent and manage any crisis you may face by doing the following:
Have your documents in order
Many conflicts can be avoided by having the proper documents in place. Contracts, nondisclosures, moral clauses, terms of agreement, privacy notices, trademarks, copyright, patents and more are designed to protect you and your work. Don’t wait until you have seen a certain amount of success or things go south to put this paperwork in place. Secure documents are preventative measures to avoid conflict. Make sure your expectations are always clearly stated on paper.
Know when to be silent and when to speak up
The right to remain silent is a right that is yours in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. You don’t have to speak on and address every problem and crisis. However, there are times when your silence will backfire and make you look unapologetic and untrustworthy.
You must know the difference:
When you are dealing with a personal matter such as divorce, family issues, personal or professional financial strain, or any matter that does not directly impact those you lead or service- REMAIN SILENT. Even if there is gossip, even if bloggers are talking, even if it is clear that your personal life is going through a turbulent time you STILL do not owe anyone an explanation or update. If people are trashing your name and gossiping it is tempting to speak up but in this case you can’t fight fire with fire. Participating in petty back and forth just makes you look desperate and unhinged.
On the contrary, when your mistake hurt or disrespected in anyway a group of people or even just one colleague or customer you have to speak up. Think of the media nightmares involving race relations or the #MeToo movement. Companies such as Dove, H&M, Gucci, NBC, and countless others had their integrity put on the line. When someone accuses you of hurting them mentally or physically you must speak up. Speak up immediately and defend yourself if these accusations are false or apologize, correct your wrongs, and accept your consequences if it is true. Silence will not make serious matters go away, address them head on.
Dealing with the media and social media
If your crisis is devastating enough to reach the media or spread through social media remember:
Unless it’s a national crisis the news cycle moves on in around 7 days. Lay low and be non-combative for 7 days! Also it is important to disengage. If you are wrong issue your apology and remember that correcting your wrong does not have to be done in the media. You don’t owe the media anything. Your energy in that moment belongs to those you hurt and disappointed. It’s ok to go dark on social media or turn down media interviews. The more you feed the negative story the longer it lives. Let it die!
Remove weak links
A crisis although unfortunate, provides learning and training opportunities. If you have team members responsible for the crisis or that don’t grasp your vision for the company moving forward to avoid a repeat crisis, now is the time to sever ties. The redevelopment and reprogramming of business as usual and other necessary steps such as sensitivity training for example, is necessary. If this education and push causes some to struggle to adapt and improve you are at risk for recurring problems.
Seek expert help
Getting expert help can be costly. You may also be hesitant to seek help such as a legal team, publicist, crisis manager, or communications team etc. And for good reason. In many cases a crisis can be solved internally. However, if your bad days become weeks and then months you have to stop the bleeding before your whole entity crumbles. If you have exhausted your in house options know that investing in outside help, someone who has the skills and time that you don’t have that can extinguish the crisis and drama in your organization is well worth it.
The point of crisis management is to be proactive. Seek potential worst case scenarios and develop solutions for them. Work smarter not harder to protect your brand. Yet still, even with meticulous planning, great ethics, and precaution, a crisis of any size can manifest. When this happens be ready.”Being challenged in life is inevitable. Being defeated is optional”-Roger Crawford Don’t let one or even a series of unfortunate events keep you from reaching your long term goals. Push through!
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