In a crisis/reputation management situation, you approach should always be focused on what you want to achieve as a result of your effort. What are the deliverables?
If your organization is faced with declining business, your end result could be measured by generating more business. If your business is faced with a product recall, the end result could be securing the tainted product. If you are getting slammed by critics, your end result could be improved perception and accurate information about your business. All of these items are measureable. The strength of your approach is determining how the outcome is measured.
Once you have your end game/result identified, you need to identify your target audiences.
In a crisis there are four groups of people that need to be addressed: victims, employees/vendors, customers/clients and the media. Lets briefly explore each of these groups.
Victims – The level of compassion you show to this group will determine how successful you are in rebuilding bridges and winning public perception in the wake of your crisis. A victim is anyone who says they are a victim. Don’t spend time on who is a victim, welcome and communicate with everyone who could be a victim.
Employees/vendors – This is typically the last group to know anything. Don’t fall into this trap of “mushrooming” the people/supporters who have a vested interest in your organization. If the situation allows, inform them first. They can be a great first line of defense and a great sounding board. Provide enough information to keep processes flowing, keeping them engaged and thinking on behalf of the organization.
Customers/Clients – Shape the message by getting out ahead of the story, when possible. Leverage existing tools to communicate. Provide FAQs, leverage websites, wikis, blogs and social media (more on this in Sharing Your Message). Connect and provide as much transparency as the situation and leadership team allows.
Media – Your communication with the media should be a culmination of your communication and messaging provided to the victims, employees and customers. Like the other communications it needs to be deliberate and concise, some would say purpose-driven.
Now that the measureable objectives and target audiences have been identified, it is time to shape your message.