Scandal:Lessons in Crisis Management

ABC’s new show Scandal highlights a “crisis management” firm that helps people in trouble get out. These gladiators in suits may be lawyers, but they are doing public relations. While you’re PR people may not deal with Russian mobsters or DC madams like the characters in Scandal, they still have the obligation to manage the reputation of your company.

It has been said, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a few seconds to destroy one.” Whether you work for a non-profit, big corporation or small business, good reputation management is key to success. The following are tips for dealing with a crisis:

Be Proactive

Most crises are avoidable. The majority of crisis situations arise from bad management. Doing routine environmental scans to discover potential problems is a great first step. Addressing those impending problems as quickly as possible should follow. In this case an ounce of prevention is totally worth a pound of cure.

Deal With Issues Immediately

When a crisis occurs, the speed of your reaction can determine the outcome. The prevalence of the internet and social media make a speedy response imperative. If you don’t respond quickly, the issue could blow up before you get your chance, and then it’s too late. Responding early allows you to carefully frame your message your way through the channel you choose.

Don’t Be Defensive

Nobody likes an excuse-making-know-it-all. You may be right, but that doesn’t mean you have to be indelicate. Pretending your organization or its products are perfect just irritates people. So, do yourself a favor and be sensitive. Give an honest account of your side while maintaining an understanding tone.

Be Honest

Public relations practitioners are perceived by many as spin-doctors; people who say whatever the public wants to hear. This could not farther from the truth. The Public Relations Society of America lists honesty as one of the major tenets of its code of ethics. While admitting fault is not easy, it will be better in the long run. Telling half-truths in a crisis will exacerbate the crisis rather than fixing it.

Have a Plan

Environmental scans will inform you of potential issues. If you are unable to fully fix these problems, be prepared to deal with them. Know what you will do, who you will have to address and how to reach them. If you are blind-sided by a crisis, know who to call. There are several firms that deal specifically with crisis situations. If you can’t deal with it, hire someone who can.