It’s a valid concern for any company or organization. One day everything’s peachy; the next day you’ve been sucked into the quagmire that is the seemingly endless news cycle. But with the right approach you can take control of your message and steer your coverage in the right direction (it’s not always easy – just ask Domino’s).
The trick is to plan ahead and act quickly.
No matter your line of business, think about contingency. Ask yourself, What could possibly go wrong? If you’re launching a new product, consider what critics might say. If you’re announcing a new deal, what might the thorough reporter chide when she or he scrutinizes the terms? Go beyond the obvious. Once you’ve identified the scenarios, with as much detail as possible, you can map a potential solution for each.
An internal Q&A document is a great place to start. Think about the tough questions you could get. How would answer each? (Sorry, “no comment” is about as bad as it gets.) Expand from there. Think about potential spokespeople and third-party “validators” who can speak on your behalf, maybe draft a few standby statements that can be adapted quickly if one of your scenarios plays out.
When that critical story does hit, time is truly of the essence. Organizations that successfully handle crises respond quickly. It’s the ones that are MIA that get into the most trouble. Whether you respond to the negative blog post by seeding a positive one, or you get on TV to address the issue directly, just do something – and please try to make it strategic!
Even the most well-intentioned, sound organizations draw scrutiny at some point. It’s always important to remember who your audiences are and what message you’d like to communicate. Stay focused, level-headed, and cut through the clutter.
Stay on message,