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Dealing with a crisis

Ramses, the UNC mascot, does not look happy.

You may not think a crisis is imminent for you or your enterprise, but that's the thing about crises -- they don't usually give you a heads up. So it's a good idea to at least outline the first few steps you're going to take when something bad breaks. Fortunately or un-, I've worked on a few crisis teams before, so it's not a new drill for me.

That's probably why a lot of folks have been asking me how I'd handle the latest academic scandal at my alma mater (get all kinds of background on that here). So for what it's worth, here's what I recommend when bad news breaks or before it breaks if you do manage to have some whiff that it's coming:

  1. Empanel a rapid-response team comprised, in this case, of academic and athletics leaders, and most-trusted advisers (PR and otherwise) from inside and outside the organization.
  2. Call your board and your industry advisory/regulatory board (in this case, the NCAA) and tell them, "We just learned of this and have formed this group to learn more. What else would you advise? We'll keep you posted."
  3. Alert the local media with a statement explaining that you've taken steps 1 and 2 and will provide an update at X day and time (and really plan to do that, even if the update is...we haven't made any progress, here's why). A personal phone call on the record and sticking to the statement is best if there's only one outlet that matters. Remind the person you're talking to that you're only providing the statement at this time but are giving it to them first. Then send it to other outlets in your market.

Deploying this process immediately avoids articles like this one calling you out in the paper of record for your state and making it easy for people to think you're not responding, even if you are.

Of course, this is my two cents. There are other opinions out there. The key is to find and adopt a plan so you're prepared.

Related Content:
How Mystery Brewing Company handled a crisis correctly

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