Crisis Management

“Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

“Runnin’ from problems is a sure way of runnin’ into problems.”

There are two types of crises.

The first kind is sudden, exploding on the scene and needing immediate attention.

The second type smolders and builds over time

Don’t wait. Just because you don’t see trouble doesn’t mean it’s not there. A good crisis plan with constant revisions and updates is the way to stay ready. Make sure that you have a plan for every crisis and every issue before you need it.

Don’t ignore your employees in the planning process or when a crisis occurs. They know more than you think they do, and they can help more than you’re likely to expect.

Don’t ignore the media. Instead, befriend them. Don’t put on airs. Be conversational, but remember what isn’t a conversation — at least on their part.

Admit your mistakes early, frankly and briefly. Get the news out fast, before rumors spread.

Business is about relationships, and relationships are about people and feelings. People mostly think with their hearts, not their heads.

Cooperate. Don’t wait until who exaggerates often finds that everyone else has left the campfire. A good story is a good story, but a prevarication is still a lie.

Use outside help. Don’t push away valuable expertise because of pride.

Keep your PR people close. Bring them in early and often. Speak plainly, include your key messages, but don’t feel the need to fill a silence. Say what you have to say, and then shut up and wait for the next question, especially when you’re on the verge of speculation.

A cowboy’s advice to crisis management: “The best way to drive cattle fast is slowly and carefully.”

Michael L. Herman, APR, Fellow PRSA, is CEO, Communication Sciences International. He is the chair-elect of PRSA’s College of Fellows.