June 9th, 2022

Issues management matters: responding during a crisis

If you have been keeping up with our series on crisis management, you will now know the basics on how to anticipate and prepare. This article covers the third step in crisis management: how to respond during a crisis.

How you respond during a crisis will differ depending on what stage of the media cycle you are currently facing. When a crisis hits, our industry often refers to the the media cycle as “MESS.”

Mayhem, Epicentre, Search and Stop (MESS)

1. Mayhem: when the negative news first hits the media


The Mayhem stage usually occurs at the very beginning of a crisis, when the negative news first hits the media. During this time, facts about the crisis will be misconstrued and non-linear. The media will report on any information they have received so it is important to get to them first with the most accurate details. The best approach during the Mayhem stage is to implement a resolve strategy. Commit to investigating and resolving the issue that is playing out. If this is going to take some time, explain that clearly and openly. Repeat your plan of action until the issue can be resolved. Command control of the media narrative by knowing the facts and sharing what is necessary.

Simultaneously, it is important to host an all-company meeting to ensure employees know what is happening. This ensures nobody accidentally contradicts what the company is saying publicly. Having a statement on the company website is a good tactic so the messaging and information is clear from the get-go. This will satisfy any impatient journalists who want to publish the news while they wait for the official response.

2. Epicentre: when the media mentions are highest


The Epicentre refers to the time when the highest mentions are happening in the media. If you have laid the groundwork properly during the Mayhem stage, and provided the media with accurate details, then the information being shared should mostly be accurate and balanced now. Yes there has been a crisis but the people involved are doing all that they can to solve it. This is when a reform strategy should be implemented. Find and reform the root cause of the crisis, put an action plan in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and tell the media you are doing this. Share the message far and wide using all channels available to you.

3. Search: when the brand appears in search engines


Depending on the nature of the crisis, there is a possibility that it will start to appear in search terms associated with the brand on search engines. We promise this isn’t the end of the world, and it will not live forever. We go into further detail on this in our next article which will cover how to rebuild reputation after a crisis. During the Search stage it is important to express regret. There is no room to point the finger, if an issue occurred and the company is at fault, there is no other option than to say sorry. You are in the court of public opinion, if you’re at fault, respond during a crisis by saying sorry and mean it.

4. Stop: when the end of the crisis nears


During the Stop stage the clouds will begin to clear. Now is the perfect time to release some good news. If the crisis caused customers to lose money, let them know they will be compensated. The way you recompense will depend on the nature of the crisis and who it affects.

In next week’s instalment we will share the best tactics to employ when it is time to rebuild reputation after a crisis.

Schedule a meeting with our team for a free review of your crisis strategy.

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