Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What To Do When Sh*t Hits the Fan

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Cincinnati PRSA Young Pros panel discussion on Crisis Communication.

The Young Pros committee lined up two great speakers: Jill Isaacs-Dunne of Metro/SORTA and Maureen Richmond of First Group. Each speaker shared multiple stories, and provided valuable insights.

In my young career I have not handled any "crisis" situations, which is a big reason I wanted to attend. Jill and Maureen did a great job of explaining how and why they handled different crisis, in addition to discussing what they would have done differently.

I pulled away several insights I'd like to share with you today.

  • Plan and Practice: Make sure your organization has a plan in place for crisis communication. This will be invaluable as crisis hits. Having a plan is great, but what happens if it is flawed? That is why it's important to stress the importance of practicing crisis situations to upper management.
  • Gather Information: Information is your friend! Soak up and embrace the massive amounts of knowledge your internal assets already have.
  • Honesty and Transparency: It's o.k. to say "I don't know" ~ Do not give an answer, if you are not positively sure about it. It is essential to deliver the right information during a crisis. Speculation will become rampant all by itself, don't add any fuel to the fire.
  • Interesting Tip: Send out an "FAQ Sheet" to brand advocates (Followers/Fans) ~ This engages and empowers them to share the correct information with their networks. It is important to think about creating brand advocates whenever interacting in the social space, not only during a crisis. The beauty of social media is the ability to directly interact with individuals. Constantly building and developing strong relationships with consumers will ensure your brand has built in story-tellers to share your message.

Jill and Maureen were great about answering questions and giving us words of wisdom. They both reminded us that everyone has been there, don't be afraid to consult someone when crisis hits. Jill added, "Don't hesitate to call one of us, we'll talk about it over a beer, or better yet, we'll have a beer after it's all over!"

This obviously got everyone laughing, but comments like that from veteran pros reinforce my passion for public relations. Collaboration and a willingness to help one another is unparalleled in our field.

I would love to hear what other crisis communication tips you have to add!

Until next time, whether it's B2B or B2C, it's all Business to Person


  1. Make sure the leaders/mgrs/directors running the event find a quiet place the moment it hits the fan so they can ensure everyone gives the same message. Also, be sure to appoint ONE person to be the voice to the media/fans/etc. This prevents confusion and misinformation.

  2. @bwmudd ~ Great advice! Having a clear, unified message is definitely essential to effective crisis comm.

    Thanks for the comment!