Thursday, August 12, 2010

In a crisis, NEVER late is better . . .

What do Tiger Wood, British Petroleum and Jet Blue all have in common?

All three were late responding to a crisis.
Crisis Management can prevent hair-tearing.
Responding instantly in an age of instant communications is pretty much Rule Number One of crisis management. When newspapers ruled the news world you had 24 hours to come up with a response. With television, about a day. Today, news travels at TwitterSpeed. Your crisis has been blogged world-wide before you can say, "Houston, we have a problem."

Four good rules to remember about crisis management:

Prevent crisis. Not always possible, but in Tiger's case, certainly. Assume that if you do something, anything, it will end up in the public view sometime, somehow. And once it's on the internet, it's there forever.

Plan for crisis and remember, a crisis can come at any time, from any direction. The Jet Blue / Steven Slater incident is a classic example. It took Jet Blue two days to stop gaping and start talking. Hint: Talking to a crisis management expert today can mitigate many future problems when a crisis strikes,

Don't stall or spin. Spin is distortion of the facts. When you're wrong, admit it. Then, immediately redirect the story by talking about how you're fixing the problem. In BP's case, they should have immediately said, "Look, we screwed up Big Time, we're really sorry. We're cleaning it up and we have an Economic Disaster Response Team walking up and down the coast handing out big wads of cash to the folks who are being financially damaged by all of this. We're also taking steps to make sure this never, ever happens again."

Be empathetic. In the wake of 11 dead oil riggers, BP CEO Tony Hayward could not have been less empathetic when he whined about wanting his life back.

Dennis Dean is an Emmy-winning former reporter and crisis management consultant with Dean Group Media. He may be reached via email or at 262-238-8740.