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Crisis Management:

What Absolutely Not To Do in Times of Crisis

The truth is that all companies are vulnerable to crises. 

The unpredictability of a crisis makes it difficult to be prepared for any and all types of incidents. However, there are certain DON’Ts that can be expected as part of a “protocol”. But remember, you can never be too prepared, which is why we compiled an extensive list of what absolutely not to do in times of crisis:

In terms of your employees and community:

  • Do not blame anyone for anything
  • Do not forget to address feelings 
  • Do not fail to recognize the impact of the crisis on your employees or community
  • Do not use language that your audience might not understand

In terms of the media:

  • Do not play favorites with media representatives
  • Do not feed into trolls 
  • Do not treat social media or traditional media as the enemy

In terms of a legal standpoint: 

  • Do not release statements such as “The situation was not our company’s fault” or “We are not legally responsible.” 
  • Do not let your attorney stop you from responding to a crisis
  • Do not listen to your stakeholders (e.g. your creditors, directors, employees, shareholders, suppliers, unions, and the community from which the business draws its resources)

In terms of your public response to the crisis:

  • Do not decline answers or questions
  • Do not articulate facts that do not have strong sources
  • Do not assume a defensive stance from the get-go
  • Do not use a crisis as an opportunity to pitch products or services
  • Do not disclose or release any information that might violate someone’s privacy 
  • Do not let your reputation speak for itself 

In terms of action you need to take:

  • Do not wait to form a crisis plan and team until a crisis happens 
  • Do not wait around in hopes that the crisis will blow over
  • Do not assume that the truth will triumph over all issues 
  • Do not ignore the necessity of accuracy and proven facts

 

While this list might seem overwhelming, it is just even more proof that there is a lot of space to do wrong. This is why taking precautionary measures and executing crisis communication the right way is vital to managing a sticky situation. A prepared Communications or PR representative will always do better than an unprepared one, no matter how unpredictable a situation may be. 

Below we will discuss what PRLab considers the most important DON’Ts of the list above.

1. Do not use a crisis as an opportunity to pitch products or services

First things first, a crisis is NOT the right time to pitch products or services. 

While it may seem like an opportune moment, it can come off as tone-deaf and taking advantage of, for some, a dreadful situation. The last thing you want to do is capitalize on people’s fears to sell more. The best thing you can do is to just use common sense and compassion when communicating with customers. 

Frederick Hess, senior contributor at Forbes magazine recently wrote an article about how some organizations are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. He states “There’s been a flood of offers, ads, pitches, and promos for everything from virtual schooling to school lunches. There’ve been countless emails from education providers and ed-tech outfits trying to score PR points, bleating that COVID-19 makes this a great time to profile their program, or offering up this CEO or that professor to share their expertise.”

The issue here is the lack of perspective. Sure these products and services may be beneficial to this situation, it lacks empathy towards the hundreds of millions of people who are scared, overwhelmed, possibly sick and/or grieving. 

If your product can truly benefit the public in times of crisis then consult with your marketing and PR team first to see how you can showcase your product in an appropriate way. 

2. Do not let your attorney stop you from responding to a crisis

So you’re in a sticky situation. 

You’re probably going through a list of all the legal issues in your head while speed dialing your lawyer. Now you’re on the phone with your lawyer and they advise you to not respond. 

Attorneys are risk-averse. All they want is to avoid all possible threats; that’s just what they do, protect you. But remember, what you need is to evaluate the risk not avoid it. Ultimately, you call the shots and it is up to you to make the right decision for your company.

3. Do not treat social media or traditional media as the enemy

The media is not your enemy.

In times of crisis, the likelihood of receiving some bad press is definitely a possibility. You should NOT feed into any negative comments that get thrown your way. 

Do NOT tell a reporter, social media activist, or an entire media organization that they aren’t doing a good job of reporting your company.

The worst thing you can do is anger someone who has the power to change the way people view your organization. If you do, you’ll only be feeding into the frenzy, either giving them validation that you messed up or even more motivation to go after you and your company.

Treat the media with respect. Respond in a calm mature way. Wisdom will conserve your integrity. 

4. Do not assume that the truth will triumph over all issues

Do wait around in hopes that the crisis will blow over. Assuming that the truth will triumph is a major mistake because it will not.

The companies that do not act upon the crisis are the ones who suffer the most. You need to take things into hand and confront your issues head-on. 

You say, ‘Here is what happened, here is how we will handle it, and here is what we will continue to be doing to manage the situation.’ 

By doing this you not only show leadership, you prove to your employees, community, and superiors that you are ready and know how to handle an impossible situation. 

5. Do not fail to recognize the impact of the crisis on your employees or community

Your employees and community are the gears that keep your company running. Without them, the mechanism would stop working. 

While things may be so stressful that all you’re focused on is trying to keep the company afloat, you must not forget the impact that this may have on your employees and community. 

It is your job to also reassure them. Communication is one of the most important notions you need to implement. Just a simple “How are you doing?” or “What can I do to help?” can go a long way. 

Communicating with your team and figuring out ways to manage a crisis together will help keep things flowing. There are quite a few ways you can talk about issues with them such as through surveys, one-on-ones, team meetings, etc. 

For example, Impraise, a people enablement platform that specializes in performance management, asked their employees who were working remotely to fill out pulse surveys in order to make sure their employees are being heard and to stay connected with them. 

If you’re going through some dark times, you also may want to incorporate some liveliness and joy in the workplace to motivate your team! Think of fun innovative ways to do things with your employees. 

Remember: a happy and secure team will go through the storm with you. 

 

6. Do not wait to form a crisis plan and team until a crisis happens

This is probably one of the most important things you should NOT do: wait until a crisis happens to create a plan on how to solve that crisis. Once the shit hits the fan, it’ll be too late. You need to have a fixed team in place who are “on-call” at all times so that if a crisis happens, they will be able to manage it from the get-go. 

You should keep the team small and concise so that it works quickly and efficiently. Every person has a specific role to play. The players you’ll want to have on your team are:

  • The CEO
  • The head of PR
  • VPs and managers of key departments
  • Safety/Security officer
  • Attorneys
  • Spokesperson 

The person you choose to be your spokesperson is extremely important. You’ll want to select someone who is very experienced and knows every nook and cranny of the company. As the primary contact for all media inquiries, they will be the public image of the company during the crisis, conducting most interviews, press conferences, etc.  It is also imperative that this person inspires calm and confidence in times of crisis. 

All in all, the biggest mistake you can make is figuring out your plan when the crisis is happening. It needs to be assembled and ready to be laid out in advance in order to respond to any kind of situation promptly. 

Now repeat after me: Preparation. Is. Key. 

To sum it up...

Crisis communication is fundamental to your company’s survival. We sometimes forget or rather don’t realize all the things that can go wrong in times of crisis. It is really important for you to have a global perspective on this so that you can plan and prepare accordingly. 

Now we hope you noted down some of our tips! Do not let your vulnerability be exposed. It’s time to put your leadership skills in the spotlight. For more advice on leadership, check out our blog

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