Plan ahead for successful crisis communication.

I have discussed this previously on this blog, but I am reminded daily that we live in a world gone amok. Anything can be recorded, published and shared publicly with the touch of a button. And when it’s bad, you can expect it to go viral fast. Many companies shy away from social media in an effort to control every message, but avoidance is no longer real solution.

For organizations everywhere, it is time to find your corporate Boy Scout and be prepared. When building your plan, understand that to move the conversation and focus forward during a crisis, the organization must specifically touch on four area: Regret, Resolve, Reforms and Restitution.

Specifically, the organization needs to communicate regret for the situation, resolve to fix it, a plan to implement reforms and an offer of restitution. No defensiveness, no claims of ignorance. Here are some suggestions for implementing the 4Rs:

1.) REGRET: Board members, management or staff do not need to apologize, but the Organization as a whole must REGRET what has happened, (individuals do not have to feel guilty or even responsible). Sample: The Board regrets that the financial situation has deteriorated to this point.

2.) RESOLVE: It must be made clear that the Organization is working to RESOLVE the issue. Sample: The Board has resolved both publicly and privately to work toward solutions to ensure the financial health of the Organization.

3.) REFORM: Without the promise of change, customers, clients, members, investors have nothing to cling to. Sample: The Organization is in the process of evaluating reforms to the current [insert issue here] and will be making reforms to this process by the end of the quarter.

4.) RESTITUTION: Publicly giving back or compensating in some way is something the Organization may want to consider. Sample: The Organization is examining the possibility of requiring reimbursements for items that were entered as expenses, but were found to be personal use.

And know this: crisis communication planning is not planning to avoid any potentially risky business moves. It is a plan of how you will respond should something go wrong. Being paralyzed by the fear of negative publicity is not good for an organization, but having the heart and soul to know that you can hold your head up high and face it when it happens, is.

Does your organization have the heart and soul to face negative publicity? Let me know what you think. ~ Jules

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