You may have seen some rather large corporations get themselves into pretty hot water lately, (cough, NFL, cough) and many observers have been quick to criticize the companies’ public relations staff for the way they handled (or failed to handle) the crisis. The fact of the matter is, if these huge companies can flub their crisis communications, it can happen to your company too. Contrary to the opinions of some, there IS such a thing as bad press, and these steps will help you recover quickly and salvage the name of your company in the event that you are faced with a crisis.

Have an internal communications plan and a media trained spokesperson.
When a crisis occurs, the reputation of the company is in danger, and your spokesperson is the first line of defense. This individual should be trained on how to deal with the media and stay focused on the message when reporters may try to trip them up or pry too deep. He or she should be confident, prepared and aware of how small details, like body language, can make an impact. They should have the facts down, anticipate the type of questions they may be asked, and have prepared responses. In addition, your employees should know how to respond if reporters approach them. They may have a brief prepared response or decline to comment and instead relay the contact information to your spokesperson, who handles the media.

Instead of shutting the media out, get them on your side.
The initial reaction may to be to react defensively or ignore the problem in order to protect the brand. This is not the time to remain behind closed doors. It will appear as if you have something to hide or that you are uncaring about the situation. The best thing to do is get your spokesperson out in front of the media as soon as possible to counter whatever negative information has already circulated about your company. Your spokesperson should be open with the media and give them as much information as they know. They don’t have to disclose internal information, but it is beneficial to respond about the key issues of the crisis. Keeping the lines of communication open will place your company in a more favorable light and deter speculation.

Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
When communicating with the media, your spokesperson should provide only information that they know to be factual. This will prevent the media from misconstruing the details of the crisis. If your spokesperson is asked for information that they don’t have, it is okay for them to respond with “I don’t have that information at this time.” However, they should make it clear that they will seek the correct answer.

Apologize and propose a remedy.
You can’t undo what’s already occurred, but you can try to make amends. Your company should convey genuine remorse for the situation, and explain the plan you are going to follow to make things right.

Make sure it doesn’t happen again.
It is safe to assume that your company has come under a large amount of criticism as a result of the crisis. Because of this, a temporary fix to the problem won’t cut it. The credibility of your company will be severely damaged if something like this were to happen again. Learn from the mistakes that were made, and put a plan in place to avoid repeating them.

There is no easy way out of a crisis in the unfortunate event that one should occur in your company. Especially with today’s relentless media, it can be difficult to navigate the road between saying too much and not saying enough. However, a crisis communications plan, and following the steps above, can make a substantial difference in your company’s recovery.