Getting Your Crisis Game On-Point - Avoid these Missteps

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Today’s world is full of crises, whether in food, restaurant, sports, education or corporate America. As a regular ”Armchair Quarterback” (hazards of the PR business) when watching crises I’m not involved in unfold, I see some avoidable errors being made. I’ve highlighted below a few of the most common mistakes – and ways to correct them:

  1. Wait too long to respond – Not getting out early can make coming back from crisis a Herculean effort, especially in the world of online news and social media. Waiting creates a void that is filled – swiftly – by others, who likely will not represent your crisis the way you would. Try to engage within the “golden hour” – or the first 60 minutes. Playing catchup is difficult.
  2. Don’t put someone in charge – When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge, and that becomes readily apparent to your audience. It also creates disjointed messaging and decreases confidence. Have a crisis team and stick with it, and make sure everyone’s role is well defined.
  3. Let others define the crisis (see #1) – First rule of crisis response: keep the audience looking at you for accurate information. Delays in information allow others to establish what the crisis is – and isn’t.
  4. Use language that is considered “stock” – In a crisis, audiences want to hear authentic, heartfelt comments. Avoid traditional “PR-speak” like “our thoughts and prayers are with…” that today can ring tone-deaf.
  5. Post infrequently on social media platforms – Again, in a 24/7 world of news and information sharing, you must post and monitor social media early and often. Human nature says audiences will take to social media to learn what is happening – and misinformation and accurate information travel at the same speed.

Successful crisis response requires advance preparation for the most likely situations and a thoughtful, strategic plan for execution. Avoiding these mistakes will help position the response appropriately. In a later column, I’ll share some other opportunities to improve your crisis game.

What would you add to this list? Feel free to share others as well.