At the recent GWI American Water Summit in Washington, D.C., Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, made a comment that brought spontaneous and knowing laughter from the normally staid audience.
Ms. Mulroy was talking about how drought conditions in the Seven States made it easier to sell the message of mutual cooperation and declared: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste!” She said she used the opportunity to raise awareness of conservation issues and to change the public’s mindset about water.
Crisis communications is a frequent topic on this site (read a few relevant posts here, here and here), and the focus is usually on reacting to a crisis and minimizing its negative impact on a business. But if handled well, a crisis can also have a positive impact.
That, however, takes planning and forethought about the types of benefits that might arise from a particular type of crisis.
Have you already outlined some positive, “silver lining” messages in your crisis playbook? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!
See related posts:
Global Water Thought Leaders Meet in Washington, DC
Top Tweets from American Water Summit 2013 in Washington, DC
A recent article floating around the blogosphere focused on the “golden hours” of crisis communications. Those are the critical hours immediately following an event when information is incomplete but audiences are continuously seeking additional facts.
The article lists five steps as the “Grand Crisis Response Strategy” for covering those first stages of the crisis.
1. Stop the production of victims. Continuous victim production is what drives the media coverage, the public interest, the emotionalization, the commentary and criticism from 1000 sources and the reputation destruction.
2. Manage the victim dimension. This is what leaders and senior managers should be doing rather than hanging around and second-guessing the command center.
3. Communicate directly and frequently with employees, stakeholders, and those directly affected
4. Notify those indirectly affected, those who have a problem now because you have a problem; regulators, licensing authorities, neighbors, partners, those who need to know and who should hear from you very promptly.
5. Manage the self-appointed and the self-anointed; the news media and the new media, those who opt in on their own, the critics, the bellyachers, the backbench bickerers, the bloviators.
Are you prepared to make good use of that valuable time window? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!
Photo: Paul Harrison
Do you have a pre-defined communications plan in place for a management or organizational crisis? Goldman Sachs’ handling of a recent crisis stirred up by disgruntled senior manager Greg Smith can be considered a PR ‘worst-practice’ crisis communications case. The company’s reactions and responses to a scathing editorial the departing employee wrote for the New York Times were underwhelming; their communications response was not just ineffective; it actually added fuel to the fire and made the situation worse.
Hopefully, you won’t ever have to deal with such a public debacle. But you still need to be prepared because $&?!#% always happens. Always.
When a crisis comes, are you and your team prepared to deal not only with the situation itself, but also with the related internal and external communications issues that arise?
By answering these ten questions, you will have the beginnings of a robust crisis communications plan that will ensure you’re prepared to face a communications crisis quickly, effectively and professionally:
10 questions to ask before a communications crisis hits your organization:
- What’s the overview of the process and does everyone on the management team know it, not only the communications team?
- Do your managers all have a one-page quick guide to do’s and don’ts for crisis communications?
- Do your managers have a generic flow chart outlining who does what when?
- Do your managers have some generic wording for informing clients about a crisis that can be tailored to the specific situation?
- Do your managers have a list of ‘taboo phrases’ to avoid in a crisis?
- 6. Do your managers have a list of generic statements to give internal audiences when crisis details aren’t yet known?
- Do your managers have a list of generic statements to adapt for internal audiences in the hours, days and weeks following a crisis?
- Do your managers have a list of holding statements for journalists that can be adapted to the specific crisis?
- Do your managers have a list of polite ‘no response’ phrases to answer journalists who ask sensitive or confidential questions?
- Do your managers have a template and process for collecting questions being asked by employees, clients, investors or journalists?
And one final (but important) question: Do the right people in your organization have the right answers to these questions? Ask, assess, then act.