SEVEN DIMENSIONS OF CRISIS COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT:
A STRATEGIC ANALYSIS AND PLANNING MODEL
The most challenging part of crisis communication management is reacting - with the right response - quickly. This is because behavior always precedes communication. Non-behavior or inappropriate behavior leads to spin, not communication. In emergencies, it's the non-action and the resulting spin that cause embarrassment, humiliation, prolonged visibility, and unnecessary litigation. Helping management understand the impact of inappropriate or poorly thought out crisis response is one of the most important strategic services the public relations practitioner can provide. To have a strategic discussion requires a tool that has value without insulting the executive's intelligence, has impact without belaboring the obvious, inspires action without over-simplifying, and illustrates options and choices without teaching unnecessary, ill-advised lessons in public relations. Examining the dimensions of a crisis, which executives can clearly recognize and relate to, helps the public relations counselor provide truly meaningful, strategic advice. It is this kind of analytical approach that helps senior management avoid career-defining moments, unless the moments are deserved. True crises have several critical dimensions in common, any one of which, if handled poorly, can disrupt or perhaps destroy best efforts at managing any remaining opportunities to resolve the situation and recover, rehabilitate, or retain reputation. Failure to respond and communicate in ways that meet community standards and expectations will result in a series of negative outcomes. This article focuses on seven critical dimensions of crisis communication management: 1. Operations;
5. Professional expectations;
6. Ethics; and
7. Lessons learned
Applying the Dimensions
Using this scenario, let's do an analysis using each of the seven critical dimensions. Each requires affirmative management decision making as a part of the process of surviving the situation. You will see some duplication in recommendations or observations, mostly because bad news is repeated in different ways and in different places unless it is dealt with conclusively, promptly.
I. The operations dimension
Regaining public confidence following a damaging situation first requires operating decisions that alleviate the community's anguish; restore confidence in the brand, organization, individual, or activity; and rebuild relationships - especially with the victims - while at the same time reducing media coverage of the story because the organization, which created the situation, is actually doing what the community expects. Over the years I've developed a series of standard operating behaviors that seem to meet the criteria for re-establishing community support. The reality is that for truly serious situations, the perpetrators will need to take each of the seven actions before public confidence will return. The optimum order in which they need to be taken is shown here. It is not possible to skip a step. In fact, the faster these actions are taken, in the correct order, the more quickly there will be less anger from victims, fewer bad feelings from employees, less litigation, and less media coverage. Companies that behave appropriately and solve problems promptly are neither newsworthy nor sueable. To resolve the crisis situation completely each one of these operational actions will be taken.
II. The victim management dimension
When organizational action creates involuntary adverse circumstances for people or institutions, victims are created. Victims have a special mentality and their perception and behavior is altered in ways that are fundamentally predictable. Victims designate themselves. They also determine when they are no longer victims. The perpetrator needs to recognize victim expectations and respond...
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