The art of crisis communication, part 1

I was at Centre X when I got a call from the media. “We have heard that shots have been fired in your centre. Would you care to comment?”

The general manager walked into the office and told me to put the phone down. She confirmed it. After that, the phone never stopped ringing. I put the phone down after speaking to one member of the press, and instantly I picked up the freshly ringing phone to speak to another one.

What do you do in the midst of such a crisis? Opinions differ, and you are hamstrung by the centre owner’s policy. In the case of Centre X, no statements may be made to the media unless they are approved by the CEO. Unfortunately for Centre X the process was so convoluted that it took 7 hours to get a 4-line press release approved, by which time the media had got all their sensational sound bites and headlines from other sources.

I agree, it’s never a good idea to turn yourself into cannon fodder for the media, but to say nothing or wait 7 hours to say something that the media already knows is just as ineffective. It also doesn’t help if you have a media consultant that is not only slow to respond to your needs, but then is condescending in their responses to you and treats you like an idiot that doesn’t know anything.

The bottom line is, you need to have a plan in place, even if it’s for something that you could never anticipate. Also make sure that the lines of communication are clearly defined and delineated so that you don’t end up getting into trouble for something that you do or don’t say.

And remember, in the age of social media, things can move very quickly, and people can be brutal, so be ready to address those issues too.

Unfortunately, in these instances experience is the best teacher, so try and get someone who has first-hand knowledge to assist you. Good luck!

Read the next blog to learn more…

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