As PR professionals, our job is to remind senior managers and leadership from all functions that PR is not just a department, but a strategic approach from the c-suite down that will move the company forward in the best of times and spare everyone a bit of pain in the worst of times. PR cannot save you if you have done something bad, but just like you make your CEO practice fire drills once a year, it may be a good idea to give the crisis communications plan a run through once in a while.
Communications leaders should guide their organizations to follow these four simple steps to move the conversation and focus forward during a crisis:
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 for be personal use.
During a crisis (real or perceived) the company must immediately and adequately respond. The PR person is not always the best person to deliver these messages – someone from the top needs step up and respond.
Public relations professionals that are serious about guiding their organizations appropriately will have the insight and management skills to prioritize crisis communications planning to ensure their organizations are prepared.
All the best,