Leadership on Point

How To Handle A Crisis

Hardly a day goes by without the leaders of some company or nonprofit organization wondering how to handle the latest crisis. A product recall; an evironmental disaster; a sexual harassment lawsuit; an unexpected scandal. The list goes on and on.

What is shocking to me is how often the crisis is handled ineptly. The most common mistakes:

· Not having a crisis plan in place

· Hoping the media won’t find out about the crisis

· More concerned about potential liability than doing the right thing

· Stonewalling

· Keeping the story alive by not getting out all the facts at one time

· Failing to use social media appropriately so you can be on the offensive

· Failing to quickly and comprehensively inform your key publics, including employees

What are the most important action steps you should take to effectively deal with potential crises?

· Identify potential situations that could create a crisis

· Prepare and practice a crisis communications plan

· Demonstrate concern for the victims of the crisis

· Announce concrete steps that you are taking to deal with the crisis and prevent it from happening again

· Determine who the most appropriate spokesperson is for your organization

· Make sure that any information you provide is 100% accurate

· Get out as much information as possible as quickly as possible

What is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t handle a crisis well? Ask Exxon, the Catholic Church, and too many politicians to name. Years spent building a fine reputation can be destroyed quickly if a crisis is not handled correctly.

Barry Wanger, a senior associate with Richard Levin & Associates, has handled numerous crises, including the robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, the firing of a CEO, an IRS sting, and the death of a patient at a nursing home.