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Little in life is certain – probably death, taxes and not much else. Business can feel similar, although we know sooner or later, almost inevitably, a crisis could rock your business to its foundations.
Be it a catastrophic product failure, financial meltdown, operator injury, fatality, fire or worse, on the law of averages we know a crisis is just over the horizon.
Most of us have disaster recovery plans and with a fair wind they could save the business. But all too often a key ingredient is missing: the media.
History shows its pivotal role in crises – from bank rate fixing allegations to Gulf oil spills, train crashes to car safety recalls, and food safety fears to failed breast implants. All those organisations had disaster recovery plans; not all had sensible crisis media management plans.
The trouble is the media sees a crisis as a business opportunity, a time to boost viewing figures, raise page clicks and extend issue sales.
As one experienced journalist said: “There’s blood in the water and it’s a feeding frenzy. The heat is on to beat the competition; find the culprit, the victims and their families, anyone who’s affected, to deliver the raw emotions audiences crave.”
It is a good business model. His web traffic quadrupled over night thanks to edgy coverage of a multi-million pound food crisis. “That new audience never faded away – it transformed our business.”
Social media means crisis reporting is now virtually live. Footage from the US Airways Hudson River crash was posted by the public onto YouTube and loaded onto mainstream rolling TV news before the airline had even established what was going on.
So how can you hope to cope? A few key actions make all the difference: be fast, have something to say, have somebody senior to say it and show you care. It’s what BP so conspicuously failed to do in the Gulf.
Like death and taxes, crises come. Preventing the media from turning your crisis into a business-ending calamity is within your grasp. So don’t let the media crucify your business while you’re trying to fix the situation.
Top tips for managing the media in a crisis: