Sunday, March 30, 2014

Effective crisis communication


A crisis, or a "people-stopping, showstopping event that creates victims" according to crisis communications expert Jim Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, can create major havoc for an organization. One aspect particularly known to cause hand-wringing for CEOs is the negative media coverage that usually accompanies a crisis.
effective crisis communication

Lukaszewski, however, never worries about the media in a crisis; he instead focuses on the organization's behavior as the perpetrator.

At a recent session that I attended led by Lukaszewski, he outlined his five-step process for effective crisis communication.
  1. Stop the production of victims. Deal with the underlying problem first and address key issues.
  2. Manage the victim dimension. Victims can be people, animals or living systems. Anticipate the dynamics of the victims of the crisis.
  3. Communicate with those people who need to know now. As everyone affected becomes a communicator, it's important to inform and educate them -- particularly employees.
  4. Inform the indirectly affected. This includes people who now have a problem because the organization has a problem, such as interest groups or allies.
  5. Deal with the self-anointed and self-appointed. In today's media environment, everyone can be a reporter -- from a blogger to a journalist to someone with a Facebook account.
Lukaszewski added two core crisis communications best practices that all of us learned in kindergarten -- tell the truth and apologize.

"If you take the path of truth, you get to sleep at night," said Lukaszewski. He also said that numerous times he has noticed that the negative aspects of a crisis often stop happening when the organization authentically apologizes.

Above all, remember what matters in a crisis -- the victims.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!
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