What To Do When Crisis Strikes: Five Tips On Crisis Management
In the 21st century, a communication crisis can take the form of anything from a data breach to a tweet made in bad taste to a product gone wrong to a false accusation or rumor. Regardless of the source or nature of the problem, every crisis needs a response -- and quickly. What’s amazing is how poorly even the biggest and smartest brands and public figures sometimes handle crises.
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As managing partner of Main & Rose, a global strategic communications firm that specializes in crisis management, I have seen it all. We have managed some of the most high-stakes crises in which we have had to mitigate potential damage and protect the integrity of well-known brands. These experiences have taught me and my team an extensive amount, and the following five tips about crisis management are key.
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1. Move fast.
In today’s digital age, news travels faster than lightning. When something goes wrong, we no longer have the luxury of waiting to respond. If you don’t shape the narrative, someone else will do it for you. Even if all the facts have not yet come to light, it’s important to acknowledge the crisis, even if that simply means putting out a statement or tweet that says that the matter is being taken seriously and is under investigation.
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That being said, be careful about the information that is included in any initial official response. In 2013, after Target’s IT system was hacked, exposing the personal data of up to 110 million customers, the company bungled the response by issuing a number of statements before officials were fully aware of the details. Some of the responses were factually inaccurate, forcing Target to issue retractions and new statements, which confused and enraged customers and made them feel like the company was incapable of handling the breach and protecting their personal information.
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2. Take responsibility.
It’s simple: Even if you feel that the issue is not your fault, it is often best to apologize. While you may legally be in the right, the only court that matters during a crisis is the court of public opinion. Unfortunately, I’ve seen companies refuse to take responsibility, particularly when it comes to more subjective matters of taste or sensitivity.
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