Terrorist attacks and disease pandemics cause crisis management to take over. Even though the public relations profession is normally equipped with the conflict management process, which includes ongoing issues management and risk communication efforts, some events that take place may catch a company or the agency off guard.
September 11 is a big example of an event that even the best professionals in crisis management weren’t even prepared for. No one would have imagined for a second that two big airplanes would hit the World Trade Center.
Companies are under great pressure to give the public information promptly when there is a crisis.
Some things that may offer help on risk communication are explained in Communication World, a book by Suzanne Zoda. The list includes:
- Begin early and initiate a dialogue
- Actively solicit and identify concerns
- Recognize the public as a legitimate partner in the process
- Addressing issues of concern, even if they do not directly pertain to the situation
- Anticipate and prepare for hostility
- Understand the needs of the news media
- Always be honest, even when it hurts
These steps are great tactics to know when you are involved in a crisis situation and will help your company to be in good standing with other individuals.
Come to find out, some companies already know a crisis may arise before it gets out to everyone else and this is called smoldering crisis. The institute for Crisis Management found that 78 percent of the problems were caused by mismanagement in a case study they conducted.
This is not the case for all companies though. Steven Fink found that 50 percent of the chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies did not have a crisis management plan.
Other strategies organizations may use include: Attack the Accuser, Denial, Excuse, Justification, Ingratiation, Corrective Action and Full apology. The United Way of Florida has a Crisis Management plan and theirs is all spelled out in order. They have plans for natural disasters and financial crisis, etc.
But often organizations do not and sometimes cannot engage in two-way communication and accommodative strategies when confronted with a crisis or conflict within a given public.
In all though, it’s always good for a company to have a plan for the worst to happen. Even though we may now want to think negatively about our business, but hey things happen that are out of our control.
Better to be safe than sorry in the end.