How to Handle a Crisis

From the aftermath of a large accident to negative rumors going viral, crises can come in many forms and affect businesses of all sizes and types. Peter Mancusi, executive vice president at public relations firm Weber Shandwick, states, “Whatever the cause, a crisis can pose a serious risk to a company’s reputation. It’s important to be proactive and plan ahead for how to respond to a crisis before it occurs.” He recommends the following activities.

Before a Crisis

  • Develop a culture of preparedness. Put into place a crisis management infrastructure so you can respond quickly and effectively when your business faces a situation that threatens its reputation.
  • Audit your current crisis procedures and the issues that present particular concerns for your company. Gather useful information to create a robust crisis response plan and team — typically senior operational, communications, and marketing executives as well as legal counsel and outside consultants.
  • Consider drafting communications plans for a few select scenarios. You can’t plan for every contingency, but you can and should plan for scenarios unique to your business that could cause serious reputational damage. 

During a Crisis

  • Appear in the initial coverage of a crisis. You should aim for a nondefensive statement that explains your position and, if possible, provides context that reporters can use to write fuller and more balanced stories.
  • If you’re dealing with a product recall or a consumer issue, acknowledge the problem and pledge to fix it. If the matter involves a controversial decision or issue, you obviously will have to think carefully about what to say, but often the best course is to be as transparent as possible and explain your position.
  • Get out of the spotlight as soon as you can. Many times, companies and individuals do exactly the opposite and end up feeding controversies or blaming others for problems before all the facts are known.

Mancusi states, “While you may not be able to always predict a crisis, you can prepare for one. Doing so can help your company recovery quicker and more efficiently.”

Peter Mancusi is an executive vice president in the Boston office of Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading public relations firms, where he has counseled a broad range of corporate and institutional clients facing reputational issues. Mancusi also oversees audits designed to assist corporate clients in identifying vulnerabilities and develops crisis preparedness plans that enable executive teams to communicate immediately and confidently when a crisis hits.

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.