There is no shame in asking for help, especially when you or your organization starts running into trouble. In crisis, organizations need an experienced communicator if for no other reason than to give unbiased advice.
Of course the time to think about how you will respond to a crisis is not while you are in the midst of it. Crisis communications should be planned strategically while there is time to think clearly. Good crisis planning answers questions such as:
- What are our greatest threats?
- Who should be our spokesperson? (HINT: It should not be a PR pro)
- Who can we call on for fair media coverage?
Your crisis coach needs to be fully engaged in this strategic planning. At the risk of being obvious, your coach should know how to facilitate a workshop in order to develop answers for every question and, more importantly, your coach should understand the news media.
The News Media?
Journalists are a different breed (again, pretty obvious, I know). It truly takes one to know one. Once the fire is lit under a controversy, good journalists will begin pouring fuel on it hoping to chase out any vermin in the process. I’ve spent many years and a lot of shoe leather working in broadcast journalism. I know the conventional wisdom — the news media needs a scapegoat, they want a body to bury. I can tell you that is not true — what journalists really want is access and honest answers. The questions are really quite simple:
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- What are you doing about it?
To the extent an organization under fire can quickly answer these questions, the news cycle can be shortened dramatically.
A good crisis coach with on-the-ground journalism experience will anticipate the news media and stay one step ahead. He or she will know what questions journalists will ask and understand how best to answer them, again shortening the news cycle.
Every organization should take a day to go through crisis strategy planning. Not only will you feel more secure knowing you have a plan in place, but even if you never need it (and we all hope you won’t) you will learn things about your organization that you likely never thought about.