Increased attention paid to crises stems from there seeming to be a new one daily. Or twice daily.
Peter Kapcio, head of reputation management for Eric Mower + Associates, first coached in these games in the early ’90s and he knows the playbook front to back. He’s also been on top of changes in the last 10 years forced by social media, video and smart phone cameras in everyone’s hands, as well as the power of Twitter to spread the word — true, false or otherwise — even as a crisis unfolds.
He recently offered updated basic rules for crisis management.
New Rule 1: Bad news is going to come out anyway, so you should release it first, proactively and preemptively.
New Rule 2: Always reveal and share the bad news with your own people first.
3. Take all your hits in one round. Get all the bad news out at once.
4. The best way to answer tough questions is to answer them before they’re asked.
5. Facts and actions are the only trumps for rumors and speculation.
Here’s a real-world example of the type of challenge to which these rules would apply. I pass on this tale as it was told to me, without being specific.
An organization of national stature faced substantial financial difficulty that resulted in reduced spending. Its leaders live in the public eye, trailed almost daily by an active media.
One of those leaders decided that despite the tight budgets, the curtailed spending and the perceptions of executive austerity, he would lease a helicopter and take several fellow executives out for a hot night in a city that was four hours away driving, but reachable by a more costly helicopter in about 45 minutes.
The chopper was 100 feet up and ready to head out for the big night on the town when the executives started getting calls and texts from the reporters who cover the organization. Enclosed were cellphone pictures of the helicopter taking off. Gotcha.
Or the Sears exec who just had to buy a $40 million mansion now, as his company tanks?
What does your audience — board, employees, suppliers, clients, public at large, customers, law enforcement authorities, regulators, retirees — want to hear from you in a crisis to show you are managing it successfully?
You acknowledge the problem.
You care about the mess you’ve caused.
You maintain control.
You do something about it.
You minimize damage.
You take steps to correct it.
Dizzying times, but the straightforward, simple, transparent responses still work best.