Jeff Krakoff on Crisis Communications

Jeff Krakoff was the keynote speaker at the October PRSSA General Meeting. He is the director of brand marketing practice at Burson-Marsteller. He is an experienced public relations professional with a career spanning 25 years. He serves his clients as an integrated communications strategist, writer, media relations professional and issues/crisis counselor. Krakoff came to our meeting to tell us about crisis communications.

Krakoff stressed that a crisis is unpredictable; you don’t know when it will happen or how big it will be. “You get one chance to do it right. There are no re-dos,” he said. A crisis is a disruption of operations. This could be a product recall or failure, a civil litigation or criminal prosecution, a data or security privacy incident, a media-based attack, a government investigation, or a workplace incident.

There are 3 Phases in a Crisis:

  1. Response – What is your immediate reaction?
  2. Recovery – Where do you go from there?
  3. Readiness – What do you learn from the crisis?

Your approach to a crisis should be planned and prepared before it is needed. Once a crisis hits your organization, you need to be able to impose order on chaos. You need to deliver clear messages through your CEO in order to humanize the organization. The public will respond better if you put a face to your company. In a crisis, you need to put the public first. Be honest. Be accessible. Be transparent. Understand every group’s needs – from customers to employees, every group matters in a crisis. Your stakeholders include customers, employees, the community, regulators, elected officials, specifiers and investors. You need to act fast to address your publics in order to maintain credibility.

Another important point is that your message needs to be consistently delivered in all forms of communication. Consistency allows your audience to believe that you are still credible and relevant.

The best way to assure that you can handle a crisis is to have a plan. Anticipate the most likely crises your organization might face. Train your employees with the protocol for each specific crisis. Develop key messages that you want to tell your publics in the event of a crisis.

“Just because a company does something bad, it does not make them a horrible company. It’s how they respond to it,” Krakoff said.

Do you have any other tips for communicating in a crisis?

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