By Ramonna Robinson, President of GroundFloor Media and CWCC Member
The PR team for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling recently learned the value of having a crisis communication plan that includes a variety of potentially damaging scenarios.
Many boiling issues can become a full-blown crisis, yet some can be mitigated with a thoughtful and immediate response. Undoubtedly, how they are handled can define an organization’s future.
While the Sterling scenario, one in which a private voicemail laden with racist comments from Sterling became public, was probably never one of the scenarios included in a crisis plan, we can use this opportunity to dust off our crisis plans and make sure they are up to date. If you don’t have a plan, here are some crisis communication and issues management tips to consider ahead of time:
- Create a crisis communication plan that includes scenarios, sample messages and a response plan. Revisit it at least annually, and update sections that are likely to change, such as the potential crisis scenarios and members of the crisis communication team.
- Develop a social media policy, and share it regularly with your employees. All too often what an employee believes to be an innocuous remark on social media can come back to harm a company’s reputation.
- Train staff on how to respond to a crisis or issue at hand and provide them with media and message training.
- Be proactive and hire an agency or outside consultant—even if they don’t execute, their strategic counsel and outside perspective on the issue can be invaluable.
- Learn from your mistakes and understand that trying to cover up the truth instead of making real reforms will continue to harm a company’s reputation over the long term.
In the case of Donald Sterling, it’s definitely a good reminder that what you say can and (likely) will be used against you. If you haven’t already, add voicemail to the list of things to be very cautions on.