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Crisis Management, When Is It Time To Say Something?

Each week PR In Canada and Profectio receive emails from readers who are looking to gain more knowledge about public relations and how to use PR to help grow their business.  Facebook’s latest crisis management issue over the data scandal with Cambridge Analytica triggered some readers to ask the us to address a few questions they have about crisis management.

Crisis Management, When Is The Right Time To Say Something?

For our latest edition of Industry Opinion we turned to one of our community members to help answer some questions about Crisis Management:
David Morelli David Morelli, Founder/ Principle of Rosedale Strategy Group [Marketplace Listing]


Who is the right person within an organization to make an official statement addressing a crisis?

David – Every crisis situation is different. Regardless of how similar they appear, no two are the same. While two companies may both be experiencing backlash over product defects, their customer base, customer loyalty, brand reputation, corporate values and financial strength are likely all different, and will influence the response. But there are best practices at a macro scale when considering how am organization should address a crisis.

The severity of the situation usually determines who is quoted when making public remarks in a crisis. The more significant the crisis, the more senior the spokesperson. Your organization should be seen as recognizing the gravity of a situation, and employ the appropriate level executive to be quoted. Conversely, you don’t want to over emphasize a less significant situation. It could make more sense to have the organization’s SME (subject matter expert) or general designated company spokesperson address the issue publicly, and take a more measured approach to responding.

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Where should the official statement be made?

(ex. Company’s website, Facebook, newsletter)

David – The short answer: wherever it’s necessary. Organizations should consider three factors when deciding where to communicate an official statement: speed, reach and audience. If timeliness is a consideration, then Facebook and Twitter offer the best options for immediacy. If reach is a consideration, then the most appropriate social platforms, plus media relations efforts to extend reach and add an element of credibility to your response. And third, consider your audience: who are you trying to reach and what are the information vehicles they consumer? If it’s employees, then maybe the company intranet or e-mail system. For customers, an e-blast or company website. And finally, consider prioritizing an official statement in the medium or platform where the issue originated or is going viral. If the crisis was a leaked video on YouTube, consider responding with a YouTube video. If the issue is a racist remark in a media interview, conduct additional interviews to apologize or set the record straight.

None of these should be considered either-or options. You should use multiple channels to reach different stakeholders at different touchpoints in a crisis.

How soon after a crisis is first noticed should an official statement be made?

David – Once a decision has been made that a public disclosure and statement should be made, it should be made immediately. Even if the organization doesn’t have complete information and requires more investigation – accusations of sexual misconduct, suspected food poisoning, an industrial accident – the organization should at least acknowledge it’s aware of the issue. Potentially communicate that you’re investigating and, if the situation warrants, offer any immediate apologies while you learn more.

As the #1 source for news about the Canadian communications and public relations industry PR In Canada receives numerous emails on a daily basis for advice and information.

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