By Evan Nierman, founder and CEO of Red Banyanan international crisis communications firm, and author of Amazon bestseller Crisis Averted.
When disaster strikes, it can be easy to panic. But when it comes to your personal or professional reputation, there is too much at stake these days to react without thinking. Bad news travels with lightning speed thanks to the immediacy of social media. A small problem today can snowball into a huge one tomorrow if you don’t step in and take control.
The best way to prepare for the unexpected is to create a crisis response plan ahead of time so you can refer to a detailed checklist when a problem crops up. Maintaining some level of control is key.
In a world fueled by immediate feedback through social media, groupthink and a tendency to “cancel” people or brands because they represent unpopular or controversial views, speed is of the essence when feedback on your brand or actions goes south. Getting your version of the truth out first is important so you don’t have to waste time responding to someone else’s spin of the facts. Managing a crisis with a calm, steady hand according to a crisis plan increases your odds of coming out stronger.
Here are five tips to effectively share your story in a crisis and maintain your good name:
1. Be First
Being proactive instead of reactive can mean the difference between winning or losing. Tell your story your way and be first. Be fast, accurate and decisive. You want to become the go-to source instead of an alternative source. Share your position on social media and be responsive to comments. Take control of the narrative and steer it in a direction that highlights your position. Get ahead of the story.
2. Reach Out
Share your story with the media so they get the facts from you instead of a twisted version from someone else. Don’t wait until another party goes to the media with a different version of what happened, or you could find yourself fighting back against false claims. Be honest, open and authentic. If you made a mistake or something went wrong, own up to the problem and explain what you are going to do to correct the issue or prevent it from happening again. If something went right, talk about that, too. The public is more likely to embrace someone who tells it like it is than someone who bends the truth or gaslights the public.
3. Be Truthful
Never, ever lie about what happened. Telling a lie can result in a loss of credibility that could forever mar your brand or organization’s standing. The damage a lie can cause can be far worse and longer-lasting than any problems that may arise from a misstep. And no matter what you do or say, at the end, the truth always comes about. Sharing your side of the story amid a crisis will become irrelevant if part of the tale you told proves to be false. No one likes a liar, and few people have sympathy for one, either.
4. Monitor Social Media
It is a sign of the times and if a crisis is brewing, social media is a mainstream player you cannot afford to ignore. Keep track of what is being said about you or your brand, so you know if the conversation is derailing. Set alerts so you know when your name pops up on social media and pay attention to what is being said. If the conversation is negative, dive into the mix, clarify the facts and set the record straight. Ignoring negative comments will not make them go away but will simply ensure you do not have a voice in the matter.
5. Target Your Audience
If your brand’s reputation is smeared, who is most affected? Target your message to the people who stand to lose the most if they lose faith in a product or service they have come to rely upon. Loyal customers deserve the truth and may be willing to give your brand a second chance in a crisis if you are straight with them about what transpired. Loyalty works both ways and businesses that want to succeed need to show their customer base the same loyalty they expect in return.
When a crisis occurs, your reputation and business longevity are at stake. Reacting fast and taking control of the narrative are key factors that will determine whether you survive and thrive or crash and burn. Be prepared by planning ahead, so you know what to do when disaster strikes. Don’t let the rumor mill chart your path. Press the truth, be honest and you will come out on top.