I remember the time I went through my first fire drill. I was finger painting in kindergarten and having a good ole time. No doubt I was probably doing what I thought to be a rendition of Hong Kong Phooey or the Lone Ranger(both great heroes in their own right, in my humble opinion).
I was so shocked by the noise and the flurry of activity that I began to wipe the paint on my clothes to hurry myself outside. And of course, then came the questions from my mom: “What happened to your clothes?”
Fire drills are important – they get kids used to the idea of orderly exits in case of an emergency and ultimately aim to keep them safe.
In the business of communications, the need for a “fire drill” can be equated to needing a crisis plan in place. Although not quite as simple as school’s fire drill, having a crisis plan serves the same purpose: to keep everyone in the company (including its reputation) safe.
Not everyone agrees with this… before it hits the fan, that is.
Tiger Woods took things into his own hands by saying NOTHING when he had his accident not too long ago. He avoided the press, refused to make a statement and just stayed out of sight. This kind of attitude BEFORE this incident made him come off as mysterious or unattainable – like a hard-to-get kind of prospect. Not realizing that his circumstances were quite as big as they were, this same demeanor made him look like he was hiding something…
…or guilty of something.
You can also see this kind of attitude with the current housing crisis. A lot of builders went into duck-n-cover mode – quite a PASSIVE move if you ask me. Especially since this kind of climate serves as a great opportunity for homebuilders to identify themselves as homeowners, reconsider their plans and RETHINK their efforts – not pull back. The smart brands kept their chips in: they stayed in the game with different messages, new incentives and, ultimately made themselves part of the conversation.
I can go into other examples, but… you get the point.
Keeping all this in mind, following are my top tips for whenever you have to develop a crisis management plan.
1. Prepare contingency plans – like we did as kids with the fire drills, we have to
- Know what to do.
- How to do it.
- How to behave.
2. Move swiftly; unlike Tiger and BP, this is no time to hide out or “ride the storm.”
- Take charge of the situation by making yourself the focal point.
- Speak with the press.
- Use your online presence.
3. Adapt & change; keep yourself loose and flexible. Things happen, and change, in times like these: long hours…emotions.
4. Give accurate & correct information.
- Don’t provide “shades” of the truth.
- Keep it real.
- Be a resource.
5. Be yourself – people and the press respond to a human being that is both emotional and rational. Plus, it immediately humanizes and puts a face to the situation.
What other tips would you recommend? How have your “fire drills” helped your clients?