Generally, a case of crisis comes unexpectedly for the company or organization that are in the eye of the storm. If you had been aware that the case would be so serious (or just discovered), you would have solved the problem before it turned into disaster. However, this does not imply that it is impossible to prepare. Listed below are typical mistakes that companies make in their crisis communication and what can be done to avoid them.
Mistake 1: “Let's wait. The media will not know”
Although companies rarely known when and where crises occur, it is fundamentally better to prevent than to cure. As long as media interest is only incipient, many expect that the problems will neither be uncovered nor attract particular interest. But once a case hits the media, one would certainly wish that the company had a plan for dealing with poor cases in the press. It is therefore important that companies put a lot of energy into the preventive processes that are crucial for their future crisis communication. For example, they must have clarified:
- Who should be involved and approve activities in different subject areas?
- Who can and must make a statement?
- Do you have to do media training in advance?
Make sure you decide on various issues that can make your company stronger if the crises should hit. The probability that the media will not pick up on your case is very small.
Mistake 2: "The crisis will probably pass by itself..."
The ostrich tactic rarely works very well. Once the media has spent resources on a story, it is rarely put down, and certainly not if you try to hide it. Fast and effective coordination is therefore important elements in crisis communication, where the burning fires and the company's future steps must be taken care of. It is very important that you as a company show that you are well aware of the situation and are willing to deal with it immediately. In contrast, with the ostrich tactic, you as a company seem indifferent and ignorant.
Mistake 3: Denial and rushed apologies
It is natural to set out the possibilities as: Either the criticism is wrong and then we strike back, or the criticism is correct, and we have to get down on our knees. In most cases, it is less black and white. In general, in a crisis case there are explanations, mitigating circumstances and other factors that should be presented. The challenge is often that you yourself are surprised by the case and first have to get the facts straight. And precisely the facts are absolutely decisive for the handling. When the company has been hit by a crisis, it is incredibly important to do a background check of the criticism. Even though it is important to be open to criticism, you must also make sure to investigate the matter thoroughly yourself. It may well be that an apology or regret is needed, but as a company you must be sure that the criticism is real before you do a statement and perhaps apologize for something you should not. Facts are predominant in crisis communication in order to put down the criticism, or at least nuance it.
A tip in relation to this situation could be to ally with an external adviser. In this way, you will be in contact with a person who does not have the same feelings in a pinch as yourself and by this get a better understanding of how the outside world sees the case with critical eyes as well as why it is precisely these perspectives that are being used.
Mistake 4: “The more internal forces that help, the better”
As many do too little to prepare for a crisis, there are almost as many who do too much when the crisis strikes. The most important thing is that there is agreement on the strategy, and it may therefore be appropriate to set up a small steering committee that can ensure that the broad outlines of the strategy are drawn and information is shared with all parties involved. In this way, you ensure that relevant employees know and say the same thing. An overview of the process, Q&A, paper on message and other internal written tools ensure that everyone agrees – or has the opportunity to say they disagree before going out.
Mistake 5: "We never/always show up for an interview"
In some contexts, it is best to avoid interviews, but often it makes good sense to speak to the public. You should NEVER speak without preparation. It is important to remember that it takes a lot of preparation and great expertise to be able to hold your tongue during a critical interview. Therefore, it can be obvious to prepare for the questions that may come up. What has happened? Why has this happened? What will happen right now? What will happen going forward? The answers provide the general lines, but the company must also be prepared to be able to answer follow-up and perhaps technical questions that come in the wake.
Mistake 6: "Only the company's CEO can do a statememt"
It is important to decide who is the right person for interviews. In some contexts, it makes good sense to let the company's CEO speak, while in other cases it is most obvious to let the communications manager or the technical manager get involved. It would be an advantage for an employee with technical expertise to appear for an interview, if the company anticipates that there will be advanced technical questions. Then the employee just needs to be completely sure of the permission to speak out and the management's support. By reminding yourself that the company's employees have different relevant skills, you can increase the possibility of answering correctly and adequately.
However, the most important thing is that the company as a whole comes out with a uniform and consistent message, so that you do not present thousands of different explanations and positions to the press. It is essential to be consistent.
Mistake 7: "Pull out the time, we can comment later"
It is of course rational to be sure that the crisis is real and needs to be responded to before speaking to the public. But it is important to find the balance between speaking too quickly and too slowly. If you take too long to speak about the crisis, you can end up breathing life into the problem again by bringing it to the agenda.