Ignoring a Crisis Before a Crisis

How many times have we watched companies or public agencies flounder as a crisis situation surprises and overwhelms them? For some of these people, preparing a crisis communications plan is like prepping for the end of the world, only crazy people do it. Until they actually need it, and no one knows what to do.

I was reminded of this again after the news that a South El Monte mayor pled guilty to bribery. Weeks went by, with leaders bickering, unsure of what to say or do. Instead of trying to get off stage, and distancing themselves from a corrupt public official, they stayed in the spotlight. They eventually hired a crisis management firm.

I’m not going to post a crisis communications plan (anyone really interested should read “Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control” by Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani and Bill Guttentag). Here’s a general one that covers all the basics.

But the guiding principles should be:

1 – Do no harm: Whether the bomb has gone off or not, don’t make the situation worse.

2 – Get out in front: Simple and honest. Pick a message and a messenger and be disciplined. Communicate what you know and don’t know, and explain how you will make sure this won’t happen again.

3 – Get off the media stage: If you can, extricate or distance yourself and the company/agency from the crisis. It may be impossible. But with a 24-hour news cycle and a ravenous social media world waiting for fresh blood, sometimes the best plan is to shut up and wait for the jackals to move on.

Make a plan today, so tomorrow you’ll be ready.