Another day, another crisis

I felt there was only one subject that I should blog about today and that is the FIFA situation. Of course I am not going to comment on the investigation or what the future may hold. The issue that has caught my attention is once again is handling a crisis and the communication associated with it.

Just a few days after Thomas Cook showed that they were slow in understanding how to deal with a reputation crisis, we now have a similar issue emerging for FIFA. It has made me even more acutely aware of when things are handled well. What makes an effective crisis communication plan can vary depending on the issue in the spotlight and the local or global environment around it. But I do think there are some key elements that you need to actively consider when developing crisis communication.

1. Recognise the problem. Be clear about what is happening and what it means for the organisation. Too many people try to take the sting out of a situation when they are briefing senior managers. This is doomed to fail. Be brave and make them aware of exactly what is being said and what the mood is, and what the problem means for the reputation. Being a communication professional was never about making friends it is about being effective.

2. Know the public mood. This is essential for communicators and using social media can be a useful part of a wider information gathering plan. If you have frontline staff gauge their views from what customers or members of the public have been saying. You can only develop an effective plan if you have an understanding of the current mood.

3. Be honest. If you know something is definitely the case then admit it. Be clear about what you can say and what you know to be true. Obviously if there is an investigation there will need to be some things that you can’t discuss but there are many, many things that you can. If you are trying to hide or ‘cover up’ you will be found out and the situation will be many times worse. With the growth of social media comes the power in the hands of citizens and employees who will know if you are being less than honest.

4. Say sorry. This is one that legal people will disagree with. The communicator sometimes will have to challenge the legal advisers and explain the impact on reputation of failing to say sorry when it should happen. I feel that Thomas Cook failed many times to be sorry for the events that happened. In saying sorry it doesn’t necessarily become an admission of guilt it is merely recognising the situation that exists.

5. Prepare for today and tomorrow. A crisis will change and develop over time. There is the initial incident, the aftermath and then at some point will come the recovery or return to normality. Communicators have to remain continually on the ball with the issue. When everyone else in the organisation may be starting to move on you need to still read the temperature of the public mood and ensure people don’t rush ahead further damaging reputation.

As I watched the news headlines today it was a case of another day, another crisis. Let us all remember that these issues, incidents and events can appear any second or any minute of any day.

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