By Debbie Albert, Albert Communications
Debbie Albert is the founder of Albert Communications and an award-winning communications executive with extensive experience in Corporate and Internal Communications, Crisis and Issues Management, and Media Relations. With three decades of journalism and communications experience that took her from the White House to North Philadelphia and from baseball fields to board rooms, she is a key player in the Philadelphia public relations community. Her favorite words to live by are “Never burn a bridge.”
I’m a Believer! Making a Case for “Crisis Insurance”
Full and fair disclosure; I’m a believer – in insurance. (And please, I have plenty; no need for any brokers to reach out!)
Whether it stems from my risk-averse personality or my early career in the news business, I sleep better at night knowing there are protections in place for the unknown, all of which will safeguard me, my family, and my business in a time of crisis.
It doesn’t take much these days to realize that every organization and every business needs to have a plan in place to handle the inevitable – that time when you are in the spotlight. (And the spotlight ain’t usually pretty.)
If you haven’t done so already, consider these three basic reasons for adding a modest “crisis insurance” plan to your company’s portfolio. It isn’t exactly brain surgery, but it could save your company’s life.
You know your own company, but you don’t know the media.
Yes, you know your company, you know the issues, you understand the facts, you recognize how you got here, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into understanding how to respond to a media inquiry – or two or 20 or more. The media has evolved.
The 24/7 news cycle, shrinking newsroom resources, and the incredibly competitive need to beat the competition doesn’t bode well for thorough, fact-checked stories. You are at their mercy – with very little time to spare.
When a crisis hits, you need someone in place who’s smart, who “gets” the story quickly, who can guide you through a response, and who is trusted by your leadership. Most crucial is that you need access to someone 24/7/365.
Albert Communications recently handled a crisis which involved the death of a teenager, and the leadership of the organization involved was frustrated with the coverage. We spent more time counseling them on what NOT to do than on what TO do. In so many cases, an organization’s leadership takes the coverage personally, wanting to lash out, to correct the story, to give “their side,” when all that usually does is add fuel to the fire, extending the story for another day or more. In many, many cases, the old “less is more” adage is the better route.
You owe more to your stakeholders than the media.
A wise former boss once helped me understand that internal stakeholders are more important than the media. She pulled me aside one day and said, “If you get a call from the New York Times and a call from one of our company’s presidents, be sure to respond to the president first.” She was right. As a company, you don’t “owe” the media anything, but as a staff member in a business, your allegiance is to the leadership there first.
In addition to the management and shareholders, you also owe it to your employees to show you have the situation under control, and partnering with a crisis communications expert can fortify your control for those internal audiences.
I’m not a big fan of developing those hefty crisis plans that gather dust on shelf. You get far more bang for your buck by having a crisis communications professional on call around the clock. That person should have a working knowledge of your company and its leadership, and be able to provide expert advice when the media comes a ’knocking.
Your employees and all of your stakeholders will benefit, and by extension, so will the company, when they see you have the public end of the crisis under control.
Reputation, Reputation, Reputation.
When you’re buying a house, its “location, location, location.” In a crisis, its “reputation, reputation, reputation.”
If you’re lucky enough to have an in-house corporate communications department make sure they are ready, willing and able to jump into a crisis. If you have no one on staff who knows how to handle a crisis, retain a firm – even for a few hours a month – to jump in as needed.
Organizations and businesses can go out of business as a result of a crisis handled poorly. (Now read that last sentence again and ask yourself if you’re ready.)
A small investment today could save your life. As I said, I’m a believer.
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