June 26, 2024
June 14, 2024
by
Joe Wilkie
PB Comms

How to get your issues management in order

Things don’t always go the way we plan. Every company can find themselves in a crisis, but it is important to consider how likely you are to suddenly run into deep trouble and how well prepared you are to deal with it. With our world constantly changing, there will always be uncertainty, especially with the increased prevalence of social media and other technologies increasing the speed of data globally.

Here are some things to consider when dealing with a crisis:

Be prepared

The saying goes by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail, which is why it is crucial to be ready for when the crisis strikes. Have contingency plans that are updated and practised regularly so the events and scenarios that inevitably follow a crisis can be managed as effectively as possible. This includes identifying who has responsibility for what – and, if necessary, arranging training, such as media training for nominated spokespeople.Communication strategies are an essential part of these plans and need to be detailed, tailored and far-reaching. 

Honesty is the best policy

Only giving part of the story, covering up, misleading or deceiving are all likely to extend interest in a crisis and put the organisation on the back foot when the facts are exposed. If it’s likely information will end up in the public domain, it’s nearly always best if yousay it first with a formal statement.

Collaborate

According to the type and size of a crisis, it can become over whelming for executives to manage the fall-out. It might be tempting for a CEO to quarantine the problem by getting together with two or three aides and decide approaches in isolation, but this rarely works. Bad decisions can be made without full access to all knowledge and up to date information so make sure to have people on board.

Communicate

Keep all stakeholders and influencers informed. This doesn’t necessarily mean exposing every skeleton in the cupboard, but then again, if information is likely to be made public from other sources, it’s always best if you say it first. It’s especially critical that staff know the company story accurately (and they will probably know if what they’re told is true) so that they know what to say in their dealings with others.

Monitor responses

Social media makes this especially important. What information is out there and what are people saying? Correct misunderstandings and get your information into the conversation. Consider opening your own information centres on social media to distribute to people.

Know your platforms

It is also important to know the types of social media platforms and media sources that are out there and what the appropriate language, audience, and content for each one is. What you post on Instagram orLinkedIn, might be different to what you provide to media. Be mindful of what you publish to each platform, double checking before hitting publish for the public eye.  

Apologise

Not always popular with lawyers, but acknowledging the problem, apologising, and detailing steps being taken to correct, is a great defence against criticism. This needs to be followed up with information on what steps are being taken to prevent such problems in the future. 

Your attitude changes, not theirs

A common mistake that executives make is to think the attitude of other people, especially journalists, changes in a crisis. As a result, they become defensive and give in to the temptation to put up barriers and cover up. However, it‘s not usually other people that change, it’s the company executives. They are likely to become defensive and adopt a siege mentality and feel under attack. Make sure to remember the core underpinnings of the company to uphold integrity and minimise further damage as much as possible.

Media is not a silo channel

It is important to understand that anything you put out that is not password protected, on your website and socials, can be accessed by anyone. For example, continuous disclosure communications to the ASX which is sent to advisers or published on your website, a public domain, can draw attention from media. Media does not just use the information and media releases directly sent to them when writing a story. Make sure to double check what you post, what you sign off on and if you do not want the journalists to see it yet, don’t publish it.

Third parties

With most crises and issues, there are third parties involved and they may well be making their own statements. Keep in touch with other parties that might be involved, so you can influence their approaches and perhaps pre-empt any statement or follow up promptly.

Recognise the end

Recognise when a peak of the crisis is past and avoid keeping it alive by sending out unnecessary information and continuing to think in crisis mode.

Overall, remain calm and consult your contingency plans, executives, or PR marketing specialists. Start planning.

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