An agreed company line will always be a vital weapon in dealing with a crisis. But it must be agreed beforehand.
Trying to formulate a fundamental company message once a crisis has struck will be near-impossible. All attention will be on dealing with the crisis and answering the specific questions the media will ask. The central corporate line has to be settled and signed off beforehand.
What the company line is depends very much on the business and the crisis. However, general positive statements about your business will always serve you well. But beware of cliches. “Safety is our number one priority” has become worn out through constant use.
Simple messages, however, such as “our first priority is to help those affected” or “we need to get to the cause of this as quickly as possible. That is why we have already got a team working….” may seem almost too obvious to state, but in the heat of the crisis they will serve you well.
Some of this material should already be included in corporate key messages. It is then immediately ready for use when a problem occurs.
The media, their audience and your stakeholders are all looking for reassurance from you. They want to hear that the crisis is being handled speedily and professionally, that every type of help is being made available to those who need it and that the cause of the crisis will be determined as soon as possible – and any necessary changes made.
Top that off with an appropriate apology or expression of sympathy and you have the basis for an effective company response in any crisis.
Be very clear, however, that these are not tricks to get you out of trouble. Crisis responses must come from the heart of the organization and be part of its philosophy. The media and the public will quickly sniff out hypocrisy, and the crisis will deepen.
The secret is to be ready. A breaking crisis is never the time to think about re-drafting the principles and aims of your organisation.