Public relations crisis management means planning for disaster as well as recovery
When your enterprise or organization falls short, you can recover. However, recovery depends on an accurate appraisal of your faults and weaknesses.
Recently the Freeh report was released addressing all the problems that led to the child abuse at Penn State. The scathing report spares no one. How will the organization recover?
In Christianity, we are urged to confess our sins. Almost every church and belief system has a process or ritual to allow it’s believers to redeem themselves, whether transgressions were committed willingly or through negligence.
1 John 1:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
How can an organization do as the Apostle John directs? It’s almost as simple as John writes.
For most of the world, if we confess or bring to light how and where we went astray or had policies and systems that were not solid, we can recover as long as we clearly chart a path in the light of day. The organization’s leaders must signal their true desire to mend their ways, and undertake new practices to prevent similar situations in the future. Kenneth Frazier the Penn State trustee speaking in the video above states,
“…with a mixture of humility and steadfastness, we pledge to work closely and cooperatively with the adminsitration in diligently facilitating open communication across all departments and levels of the university that will be for the benefit of the children that are on our campus and it will also be for the benefit of every part of the university.”
It is this kind of public admission of directional change that leads to trust in the recovery efforts.
Steps to recovering after a public relations crisis:
- Quickly acknowledge the crisis and sincerely express sympathy for all involved, harmed or hurt during the crisis.
- Cooperate with law enforcement. (Yes, you must listen to your lawyers, and you also must be responsible citizens. And you can do both.)
- Address the causes of the crisis and how the organization is working to correct the issues that led to the situation.
- Have subject matter experts prepared to speak topically to specific items and discuss what happened and how it can be changed.
- Keep the public informed about what the organization is doing to recover and assist victims.
- Form a panel of individuals to analyze the situation and formulate changes to prevent future similar crises from occurring.
- If the crisis is deep rooted, make sure the panel is comprised of outside experts who have no stated or hidden loyalties to the organization, but are instead experts in the specific issues.
- Publish the findings in the pure light of day.
- Follow the steps outlined in the findings to change processes, procedures, and planning to prevent future crises of this type.
- Provide ongoing updates to the public reporting on the steps taken.
Recovery is possible
Human beings are forgiving, for the most part. If your organization is truthful, mends ways, seeks to prevent future crises and demonstrates the leaders’ conviction to prevent similar situations, leaders can restore the organization to strength. It won’t be easy, it won’t be swift, but it can be done.
Photo credit: flickr creative commons user emilio labrador