When you’re dealing with drama and you want to know what to do and what to say, Eden Gillott is the person to go to. She has been the President of Gillott Communications, a crisis PR firm, for over 11 years. She chats with Tom Fox about what a company should say in a crisis situation, how to prepare for a crisis in advance, and common mistakes to avoid.
What to Say During a Crisis
Eden defines a crisis as anything that threatens your reputation in a way that will interrupt your business. Whenever there is a crisis incident, especially one that involves loss of life, your company should express sorrow and empathy, and should never make light of the fact that people have lost their lives. You should also think about your key message and goals: ideally, your strategy should include your short-term reaction, but also consider the long-term impact of your actions.
How To Prepare For a Crisis
While you can never predict a crisis, there are ways to prepare in advance. Think of the things most likely to happen in your industry. Crisis in the food industry, for example, can include recall and contamination. If something were to happen, how would you respond? A good strategy is to have a placeholder statement you can use as an immediate response that tells everyone you’re taking care of the situation, you’re looking into it and will get back to them as soon as possible. This placeholder statement buys you time while you gather the facts. The last thing you want to do during a crisis is rush out with misinformation, Eden warns. It can make an already bad situation even worse.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
During a crisis, you should avoid these common mistakes:
- Lack of communication – Be as transparent as possible. Make sure everyone has the facts needed to make an educated decision.
- “ It’s not my job.” – When there’s a crisis, it’s everyone’s job.
- “ It’s too small to be noticed.” – A crisis can become worse if you ignore it.
It’s a good idea to have a protocol in place so if a crisis occurs you have a framework to follow.
Advice About Social Media
Tom comments that social media has amplified messages, which can be catastrophic in a crisis. Eden advises how companies can use social media during a crisis. Social media posts can also precipitate a crisis. She admonishes, think before you post!
Lying is an Absolute No-No!
Eden says that there are two absolute no-no’s in crisis PR, and lying is one of them. Lying will always come back to bite you: your credibility will spiral down and the reputation you spent years building will be tarnished. If you’re caught as a liar, people will never believe anything you say in the future.