Many organizations and companies face certain crisis due to, as set by Lerbinger (1997), management failures or environmental forces. The important thing in such a situation is how that organization is communicating about the crisis regardless of the cause.
I am sure that we all have faced such difficult moments in which we have to make a choice between talking or keeping silent about a certain problem or rumor in our organizations.
Well, the first rule in crisis management is never to keep silent about any news mainly the bad one because even highly confidential information always in a way or another escapes the bounds of its organization.
Be proactive and don’t wait for the media or your stakeholders to knock on your door. Also, when they come to you, give them what they look for or else they will refer to other sources which may harm your organization more than your comment or statement.
Let’s see how silence about a crisis is not a real good choice. In 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez spilled in Alaska coast approximately 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo of crude oil. They immediately started the cleanup but they kept silent far too long to address the stakeholders and the media.
When the CEO decided to talk to the media, he started by blaming them for exaggerating the public relations disaster caused by the spill. Their stock market dropped $ 3 billion in the 2 weeks after the spill. (Seymour and Moore 2000:157)
This was a failure of communication which cost Valdez its reputation. Instead of blaming the media for its coverage, the CEO should have showed some concern for the consequences of what had happened and should have demonstrated competence of how to handle this problem.
By the way, the Exxon spill incident is considered till now as one of the worst environmental disasters in history.
To communicate with the stakeholders and particularly the media, it is good to follow the 5Cs model which is mentioned in chapter 20 in Exploring PR by Tench. This model says that to have an effective communication, the following 5 elements should be taken into consideration by the spokesperson:
The reaction of the CEO and Exxon proves that preparedness is very important. Any organization or company should do a crisis audit; have a crisis manual, and crisis training. Actually, I don’t know if companies are ready to spend time and money on regular crisis preparedness workshops. I think there are not many.
If you know any organization or company is doing this, let me know.