The Top 4 Mistakes Made While Managing a Crisis

June 27, 2018

No one wants a crisis. Understandably, most people don’t even want to think about a crisis… unless it’s happening to someone else and is posted all over social media. Perhaps that’s why studies show that only 50% of companies in the world have a crisis management plan. Somehow, even some of the most successful companies, with a wealth of resources, seem to stumble or fall in the midst of a crisis.

Reality is, in our modern era of communications, a crisis of any sort – real or rumored – can quickly snowball into a major catastrophe. Smart phones and social media enable everyone to be journalists, videographers, social commentators, judges and juries…anytime and anywhere. This has granted the “court of public opinion” new power, speed and severity. Today, a guilty verdict in this “public” court can quickly and deeply damage the reputation and financial health of companies or individuals. And executives are being ousted – or worse yet, going to jail.

The good news is that when a crisis hits – and it will – you don’t have to have the resources of a Fortune 500 company to properly navigate the situation, especially if you avoid making these top four crisis management mistakes:

1) Not realizing you are in a crisis.

Some crises are obvious …an accident with fatalities…a significant product failure …discovery of a financial crime. Other crises quietly fester before blowing up publicly and destructively. An issue may seem like “no big deal” until it’s splashed on the pages of Facebook. Understand and monitor the full range of potential risks to your organization. Being aware is the first step in heading off a major disaster.

2) Taking too long to respond.

In today’s world, information is shared globally almost instantly. If you wait too long to respond to a media inquiry, rumor or public accusation, you miss your chance to shape the message. And if you don’t shape it, someone else will for you.  Gather the facts and be diligent; but quickly address misinformation before it becomes “truth” online. If you wait too long, the damage done may be difficult or impossible to repair.

3) Lying.

Even good companies and people sometimes lie in a crisis; whether driven by denial or a misguided attempt to avoid consequences. Don’t. Do. It. Despite lying being wrong, when the truth inevitably surfaces, you will be in a bigger heap of trouble and trying to survive without any credibility.  Don’t say anything before you lie.  And if you make a mistake, realize that most people (not all) will forgive if you respond with honesty, remorse and remediation.

4) Failing to take responsibility.

It’s the lesson we’re taught as children: If you hurt someone, say you’re sorry. The “old” advice was to never admit guilt, especially if litigation may be involved. However, judgement in today’s court of public opinion is so strong and swift that legal counsel often will agree that taking the appropriate responsibility in public statements is necessary and advisable. Don’t hide under your desk, step up and consider that you may be the leader who needs to say “the buck stops here.”

In our service to clients we see these four mistakes a lot.  Either they’ve happened and we’ve been called in to help, or these mistakes surface as options during crisis management discussions.  At the end of the day, thinking about a crisis now can help you immensely when one hits.  Consider creating a strategic crisis management plan. It doesn’t have to be novel-length, but a good plan can help your organization avoid significant costs to reputation and bottom line. So remember, just like a hurricane off the coast, a crisis is coming, prepare now.

Authored by: Erin Sanders. Erin is a Senior Communications Advisor with NP Strategy and has more than 20 years of experience in crisis management and strategy communications. Erin has advised Fortune 500 and other companies across numerous industries in challenging situations from bankruptcy and mergers to cybercrime and #metoo claims. Erin also has created award-winning and highly successful communications programs for clients who are not in a crisis…yet. If you’d like advice on preparing your organization for a crisis, email Erin at erin@npstrat.com

See also: Crisis Management Services

Originally published by MidlandsBiz on June 25, 2018. 

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