Mission Critical – Communication Tips from the Front Lines
(By Deborah Parenti) The recent United Airlines debacle is a good lesson for every company, including radio groups and stations. Most of us have, at one time or another had to deal with issues involving our customers, both listeners and clients, as well as the PR that swirls around those that play out in public.
While everyone has an opinion on what United should have done or should do now, there is a broader conversation to be had in terms of what we can all learn from their mistakes.
I reached out to some of the industry’s top communicators for their advice on managing crises. Over the next several days, Radio Ink will feature their thought and insights. Put together, their experienced commentaries make a great primer on how to deal with situations no company is immune to today but that everyone should be prepared for.
Their wise counsel also serves as an excellent reminder that if your company does not have a corporate communications person, either on staff or contract, you need to have one. We live in a world today where viral messaging and social media can spread stories, not always accurate or complete, without warning and at lightning-fast speed. The ability to act quickly and correctly is more vital than ever in preserving the integrity and bottom-line value of your brand.
Veteran broadcast corporate communications pro, Heidi Raphael, kicks off our series with some spot on advice.
“We have a Situation!”
“How many times have you heard that statement over the years? The way you deal with a crisis can have a major impact on your audience, clients, station, stakeholders, and community at large. What happened with United Airlines is a perfect example.
What is the first thing you should not do? PANIC. Each situation is completely different. It’s important to not hide or blame someone else. Get in front of it early and address it right away.
If you’ve made a mistake, OWN it. Apologize and mean it. Follow up quickly to show how you are going to correct the situation in a real, relevant, and meaningful way. That could consist of a meeting with individuals who may have been directly impacted by what happened, along with specific actions that you plan to take that will make a difference moving forward — perhaps some sort of policy change or something deliberate that will make a real and immediate impact.
That’s why it’s important to have a crisis communications plan in place in the event something happens. Create a team. Members could include your CEO, Market Manager, Station Manager, General Counsel, Corporate Communications Director, Human Resource Director (if it’s a personnel matter), Program Director, and Director of Sales. This way you can react quickly and swiftly.
Identify one person to serve as the spokesperson of your company. It could be your CEO, Corporate Communications Director, or a Market Manager. Make sure everyone knows that this individual is the only person allowed to speak on behalf of the company so that you speak with ONE voice.
As you prepare:
Listen – Find out exactly what happened. Don’t assume anything based on past experiences. Each one is different.
Learn – Ask lots of questions. Make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly what took place. You want to hear and see the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Lead – Make sure your statement or comments are accurate and reflect the situation at hand and get in front of it. Don’t lie.
Create a written statement, press release, and talking points. There is nothing worse than saying “no comment.” You represent the company and the members of the media are doing their job. Acknowledge what you are able speak to. Be sure to communicate your message throughout your company as well as to clients and key stakeholders across multiple platforms (social media, video, audio, etc.).
Social media is an immediate pulse. Monitor it so you know what is being said about the situation. Some companies subscribe to media monitoring services, such as Meltwater (meltwater.com) or set up Google alerts to keep track of what is being said about their organizations.
The more prepared you are in the event something happens, the better. The way you deal with a crisis will ultimately be how your company will be remembered.
Heidi Raphael is a veteran broadcasting corporate communications and marketing specialist. She can be reached [email protected].
Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink Magazine and can be reached at [email protected].
Part two of our series will appear in our Friday morning headlines.