PRmageddon: From Crisis to Control
In the heat of the moment during a crisis, it can be very challenging to craft messaging and respond in a thoughtful manner. Preparing for the inevitable on a sunny day is always a best practice and having the opportunity to rehearse is invaluable.
Area public relations professionals gathered recently to hear several speakers present on crisis communications and rehearse a crisis situation with Sandi Poreda, APR, of Bulldog Strategy Group and Officer Ben Tobias, Public Information Officer for Gainesville Police Department at the FPRA Gainesville Professional Symposium PRarmageddon. “Recognize and define your role in the crisis, who is going to respond and what is the message going to be,” said Sandi. “Be purposeful, not reactive.”
After you generate a list of questions you think media would ask in a scenario, take it a step further. “Think of five to ten questions that you hope they don’t ask,” said Officer Tobias. “If you screwed up, be honest.”
Sandi echoed this sentiment, “Lead with compassion, follow it with conviction, commit to making it right and close with optimism.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Office PIO Jeff Williamson, PhD advised remembering to be compassionate in your response in crisis situations. “A storm is always coming, so prepare yourself and remember that you must demonstrate compassion.”
As a crisis unfolds, all of the facts of the situation may not be readily available. Just message on the facts that you do know and do not speculate. “They are not going to expect you to know everything right away, so just be honest and say that you will find out and get back to them,” said Officer Tobias. Sandi advised, “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”
During a crisis, always update your internal audiences and stakeholders regularly. Share the same information you are sharing with the public and the media. “Don’t let your employees read about it in the news before you told them,” said Officer Tobias. This is made easier when there is just one spokesperson who should remain messaging throughout the crisis. “If you have three different people answering three different ways, it is going to look like you are leaving information out or not revealing something,” said Sandi.
After the crisis, debrief on what worked, didn’t work, what you missed and how you can do better next time. “Improve your crisis communications plan accordingly and then share it back out to your team,” said Sandi.
“Be honest with yourself in the evaluation process,” said Officer Tobias. “You will only make yourself better when the next crisis hits.”