Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Do You Handle a PR Crisis Communications Event?

Sometimes, another organizations PR missteps, are an opportunity to learn how not to handle a PR crisis. Just ask the Chicago Bears, who historically have mishandled every PR crisis of the last 10 years, including the one the week of December 12. Yes that right, this one went on for a whole week, because they messed up right from the beginning.

Is your response to dive for under the desk? Do you send out poorly prepared underlings, to face reporters and the public? Does leadership, make proud pronouncements at the outset, that could come back to haunt you because at this point, you just don't know? Do you react as an arrogant organization with the, "How dare you question us response"? Do you think that it can never happen to you? Do you have a crisis communications plan in place?

Every healthcare organizations will face a PR crisis.

How you handle the communications, will determine the amount of brand damage, and length of time people remember. In this age of social media and the Internet, there is no, "We just need to wait 3 days to weather the storm", anymore.

Many times organizations respond with:
Lack of organizational understanding of the need to handle a situation as crisis communications;
Different, conflicting senior management messages;
Testy responses to questions;
Lack of preparation by speakers in understanding the seriousness of the communication;
Poor speaker body language;
No overriding organizational message;
Organizational arrogance;
Lost messaging opportunity ;
Appearance of blaming others;
The organization appearing not accountable;
The organization furthering to anger the media;
No response at all with the "it's just a three day story and will go away";
Sending out unprepared underlings to face the media;

Is it not true that any press is good press! Every day, someone somewhere faces a crisis communications issue which is handled poorly. Just look at the Chicago Bears for the past week. You need to learn from others and be prepared.

It's not hard, and should be part of your marketing strategy for 2012, as a separate communications plan. By following these planning guides, you can weather any storm, limit reputation, revenue and ultimately brand image damage.

Understand the nature of the situation;
Be transparent;
Be proactive in how you intend to address the situation;
Limit the amount of time senior leaders i.e. the CEO or president speak;
Make sure everyone has the same message and is on board;
Develop strong organizational messaging of care and concern;
Don’t scapegoat, blame others or give the appearance of blaming others;
Don’t tell people things will change when things are not changing;
Practice, practice, practice;
Bring in an outside PR firm for another viewpoint;
Understand that your reputation is built up over a long time and can be destroyed in a few short minutes;
Remember that it is not just a three day story;
Watch your body language;
Know your facts about past performance, reporters will be prepared;
Learn from others;
Each year engage in a day of media training for executives. Dealing with the media is a learned skill that the majority of executives do not have. It is not as easy as it looks.

Most importantly, engage the media all the time all year round. Why? Because, media relations is a year round activity. Not just when you have a problem. By establishing positive media relations with the good you do, you won't necessarily be cut any slack in a bad situation, but you will get the opportunity to tell your side. You won't if you don't have good media relations already in place.

Plan now for that crisis communications event, and you will better off as a prepared healthcare organization in 2012.






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