Every crisis communicator had to start somewhere. Hopefully, your first taste of crisis communications or crisis management was in support of someone more experienced than you, someone who could show you what to do and what not to do.
But that’s not always the case. More often than not, as organizations cut staff to the bare minimum, and don’t free up moneys for outside consultants, the one-person communications function is a commonality.
Chances are, you are that person. And chances are, you have to wear many hats, from handling media relations and social media, to the organization’s e-newsletter and trade show participation – and everything in between.
Then, along comes a crisis. Do you have crisis management experience? If so, that’s a plus, but if not, keep this in mind.
Stay Calm, but Have a Sense of Urgency
No matter how stressed your superiors are they need you to be calm. At the same time, if they sense you do not have a sense of urgency, that will stress them out even more. How to balance this? Be very proactive in getting information from all sources as quickly as possible. Work to gain a clear picture of the situation, even if it’s not the same picture as that of your leadership.
Don’t cloud the issue with your own biases and feelings. Step back and try to determine if your key stakeholders see the situation in the same way. How do they see it? What are their concerns?
Once you have a handle on what’s happening and how your key stakeholders see it, you will have a better idea of what to say, how to say it, where to say it and when to say it. With that understanding, go to your senior leadership – calmly but confidently – with two things:
- Your recommendations.
- An action plan you can commence right now once approved.
If you can do this, you can be a calming force to your leadership, and you can take a little bit of the pressure off of yourself, so that you can go about the business of mitigating the real crisis before you.
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Tim is the author of the forthcoming book called “The Essential Crisis Communications Plan: A Crisis Management Process that Fits Your Culture.” He is founder of O’Brien Communications and has provided crisis communications and issues management support to clients from Fortune 100 firms and national nonprofits, to emerging start-ups.
Tim has handled hundreds of crises, large and small over decades, working with some of the most iconic brands in the world along the way. To receive updates on when his book will be available for you, click here.