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Find out how to not dawdle when fronting up to a crisis

Find out how to not dawdle when fronting up to a crisisImage Credit: Supplied

If you need to respond quickly to a negative situation that has impacted your organisation, there are many techniques available to manage it and to successfully communicate with all parties concerned.

Sending out a press release

Consideration should be given to sending out a press release to inform the media together with your stakeholders of the current situation while simultaneously delivering a very clear message that demonstrates your confidence in dealing with the situation. How you respond in the first 24 hours may be vital to maintaining production and morale, both within the business and externally.

The confidence of both customers and suppliers can very easily be lost permanently overnight — in the event that you fail to manage such a situation professionally. Time is of the essence.

If your reaction is not adequately proactive and credible, then your suppliers and customers could decide you are too much of a risk and may transfer their business to competitors. In the absence of information, the media is always happy to speculate and can easily publish incomplete or inaccurate information.

Holding response

If you cannot give a definitive response to a particular situation, then a holding response might be the answer. For example, ''We are aware of the current problem and our company takes this situation very seriously indeed. However, be assured, that we are doing everything in our power to ensure a speedy resumption of service as a matter of urgency. Please contact [key contact details] for more information and/or assistance.''

Note that it is important for anyone impacted by the situation to have a named person or department with whom they can connect. The public and the business sector need to know you are in complete control and that all necessary steps to resolve the situation have been, or are being, taken.

Consistent message

Always ensure that whoever is the company's public representative delivers a consistent message. This person should ideally have received media training so that they are fully conversant with how to speak to the press and television, knowing not only what to say but also knowing what not to say, and how to correctly field challenging questions. The media are used to dealing with such situations and not averse to firing questions at unprepared company personnel.

Don't forget that the newspapers love a story, as it sells their product, but do your best to keep to the point knowing that what you say at this moment in time will be remembered and referred back to in the future. Naturally, you will also need to think about whatever message you deliver externally is also communicated internally to reassure everyone concerned.

Mistakes are made

If the company has made a mistake, then choose your words very carefully but admit to them in a clear and concise manner. How you respond to this situation will determine its outcome. People will want to know how, and when, the situation will be resolved so that they can take appropriate action in the meantime.

Never make promises or give assurances that you cannot keep but instead communicate an action plan as to how you are going to remedy the situation.

Working with the media is a skill in its own right and, therefore, all spokespersons should be acutely aware of the necessity for an informed response.

A correctly worded press release can not only pre-empt any loss of confidence but can actually help your organization raise its profile and reputation, and possibly even attract new business. However, the composition and distribution as well as the timing of your message are all of vital importance to retain your image.

Keep it simple but informative, accessible, concise, and accurate. Consider using visuals or other resources to illustrate your message for greater impact.

Finally, of equal importance is the necessity to ensure that whoever is the company contact for follow-up enquiries is fully briefed and available to respond with the information that the caller is likely to want. Remember — corporate confidence that has taken years to build and to reinforce can be destroyed in a moment by a lack of transparency and/or information.

Key points

• Managing a crisis requires communicating accurate information quickly.

• Incorrect or no action can cause permanent business damage.

• Knowing how to manage both print and broadcast media is essential.

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Source: Carole Spiers, Special to

The writer is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and CEO of a business management consultancy based in London