When the crisis that’s hit your organisation is over or has subsided, then is the time to take stock and audit how you have responded – or, rather, conduct an ‘inquest’ as journalists would put it.
Things to look at are:
Did you have a crisis plan beforehand? If you didn’t, make sure you get one in place fairly quickly – in case another crisis comes along. If you did have a crisis plan in place, how well did it withstand the onslaught of the media? If it proved fragile, revise the plan in the light of what you learned.
As part of this, you should ask yourself whether your organisation responded quickly enough. OK, the crisis that engulfed you might have been unwelcome and you might have wished it would go away, but did you face up to the reality of being under the media spotlight and respond accordingly? This means not running away or going into hiding but being out there in front of the media as soon as possible after the crisis breaks. Did your organisation have an early footprint on the story or did you stand back and let others (most likely your critics) make the running as far as news coverage was concerned?
How well did your spokespersons perform? In front of the cameras did they come across as ambassadors for your organisation or as amateurs? Did they convey the impression of an organisation that was dealing with the crisis in a calm, professional manner or did their performance suggest the organisation is a shambles, with chaos reigning behind the scenes? If they failed on this score, ditch them as spokespeople or get them up to speed before the next crisis breaks.
How well did you handle the social media? Did you have systems in place to respond when the story went viral?
What was your attitude towards the journalists covering the story? Were they ‘the enemy’ in your mind or just a bunch of guys doing their job? If it was the former, then animosity might have crept into the way you handled the media and this might have permeated news coverage – not a good idea. If this did happen, recast your company’s mindset towards the media before the next crisis hits you.
In other words, if the story broke on a freezing cold January morning, did you leave news teams freezing to death on the pavement outside your HQ or was someone from your organisation despatched with a round of tea? A minor and whimsical observation, perhaps, but nevertheless symptomatic of your organisation’s overall approach towards handling the media when the crisis broke.