According to Coombs (2007:03) Crisis management is a process designed to prevent or lessen the damage a crisis can inflict on an organization and its stakeholders. A crisis management plan is a reference tool that provides lists of key contact information, reminders of what typically should be done in a crisis, and forms to be used to document the crisis response. Every organizations crisis management requirements will vary. The key to Crisis Management Planning is to have a set of processes and procedures to be used as a guideline for crisis management.
Some of the common steps to crisis management:
A key component of crisis is a spokesperson. Organizational members must be prepared to talk to the news media during a crisis.
Define the extent of the crisis
Take time to identify what has happened and why it has happened. Try to understand how widespread the backlash will be. Local, regional or national.
Establish a unified response
Do not distance yourself from the issue. Own the problem and be upfront if you have made a mistake. Develop and maintain a unified position and supporting messages and keep the messages simple, clear and consistent. Be sincere when making apologies; empathy goes a long way in crisis management.
Cooperate with media. Target communications to those affected by the crisis and those who can effect action (staff, stakeholders, government officials, media etc). Immediately make a simple statement indicating awareness of the situation, action being taken and willingness to inform media and public of details when they are known.
Establish media response policy
Schedule briefings to relay data, correct misconceptions and maintain positive media relations. Do not stonewall or deny that there is a crisis. Treat all media equally; no ‘exclusives’. Stick to the facts.
Keep details well documented
Keep records of all replies (for example: media outlet, reporter name, date, time, respondent, summary of response, follow up requests etc).
Conduct a post-crisis review
Look to learn from the crisis. Get together with your team and breakdown the events to fully understand the how’s and why’s of the situation. Use this time to put policies and procedures in place to mitigate the likelihood of the issue reoccurring.
It is not always possible to avoid a crisis occurring, however if a situation eventuates, the key to a good public relations strategy is to take responsibility of the issue; be sincere in your concern; and be available to speak with the media and public throughout the ordeal.