Responding to a crisis


No matter how thorough your vetting it's likely at some point you'll need to deal with a crisis regarding a donor or licensee.

  • Never try to hide or cover up bad news. While it’s human nature to avoid revealing troubles it always makes things worse. In the media there’s a saying: It’s never the crime, it’s the cover up. 
  • Act as quickly as possible. If you have a crisis response communication plan in place activate it. If you don’t have a plan, don’t wait too long. If necessary, issue a statement that is an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the issue with a promise to get back with an official response as soon as possible. 
  • Designate a single spokesperson on this issue for the organization. Provide language for every other individual likely to be approached so they can confidently and professionally direct inquiries to the designated spokesperson.
  • Monitor social media and other communications channels to see what the media and your constituencies are saying.
  • The five keys to responding effectively are to acknowledge the situation, express concern, take responsibility, apologize, and explain how you’ll fix things and do whatever you can to minimize the chances of it ever happening again.
  • Don’t assign blame to anyone inside or outside the organization. Reiterate that the organization wants to find out what happened, and why, and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • Humility and honesty are vital for your spokesperson. If they don’t know an answer they should say so, and promise to get back with an answer.
  • Review social media and your communications channels after every statement from the organization to gauge the response and provide necessary clarifications, corrections, or further comments.
  • Make sure that you communicate with your staff and employees the same time you speak with the media. Consider having a separate internal spokesperson to facilitate simultaneous communications. Speak with employees and staff too late and they’ll feel left out of the loop. Speak with them before the official announcements and the information may leak out.
  • Refocus communications on the good the organization does when you sense the initial crisis wave has crested. Do it too soon and it will look like you’re trying to distract from the problem.