(DGIwire) “Crisis” is not a word to be tossed around lightly. It has become synonymous with “disaster,” “catastrophe,” and “emergency.” But “crisis” actually comes from the Greek, krísis, which means “decision, choice, election, or judgment.” In other words, a crisis should ideally be viewed as an opportunity to make effective changes moving forward. The reality is that whether you’re a small business owner, CEO of a large company or somewhere in-between, some “tricky situations” can become a crisis. The trick is to not wait around, worrying, but rather have a plan in place for such an event so that when a problem does occur, you’re ready to face it head-on, and possibly come out even better for the way you handle it.
Today corporations, non-profit organizations, and leaders themselves face a new challenge – online criticism. In this Internet age, anyone with a keyboard has the power to comment, criticize, and even attempt to undermine your company’s reputation. As tempting as it might be to respond to these criticisms it is best to either ignore them or leave it up to someone with extensive media training.
For tips on how to prepare for a crisis before it occurs, look to Dian Griesel, Ph.D. Having guided all sorts of companies, funds, not-for-profits and individuals over the past 25 years, Dian knows the ins and outs of dealing with crises. She offers these sage suggestions:
- Be Aware of What a “Crisis” Would Mean For Your Company. Is it poor financial performance or product liabilities/recalls? Accidents and/or environmental problems? Perhaps it’s about responding to dissatisfaction by employees, shareholders, and consumers. Pick the one that would most likely occur, and focus on creating a plan.
- Have a Plan of Action Before the Crisis Happens. Create a notification process for your internal communications systems, be conscious of media cycles, and make sure your legal and communications people talk regularly about vulnerable issues so that no one is caught off-guard.
- Maintain Credibility by Highlighting Key Issues. Don’t attempt to hide your bad news in the body of a press release. If you are not completely transparent with your investors, your customers, and the media, it’s going to become immediately apparent, and make you look worse for trying to avoid the issue.
- Admit Your Mistakes. Mistakes make us human. If you cannot admit to a misstep, no matter how big or small, it will likely alienate the people who you want and need on your side.
- Avoid a “fortress” mentality when dealing with the media. If you treat the media as an enemy and build a figurative wall around yourself or your company, people will assume you are preparing for a battle. If you do build walls to keep the media out, don’t be surprised when they finally break through – and they always break through.
“No matter what challenges you and your company face, approach these from a positive place, be responsive in a timely fashion, acknowledge any mistakes you may have made, and explain how you will correct them,” says Griesel. “This can determine how able you will be to move forward confidently and successfully, retaining the loyalty of your client or customer base and enhancing your reputation as a company built on a foundation of integrity.”