Exposure increases the risk to your reputation, but it also creates an opportunity to enhance it – no matter why the spotlight is being turned on you. For this reason, we thought it would be useful to share the advice we offer to businesses when your company is about to be thrust into the limelight.
Take a minute away from the distractions of emails, phone calls and messages, and just reflect on the issue you are facing. Take an old-fashioned pen and paper and write down your greatest concerns. Once we’ve ‘named the beast’, we can deal with it.
Like every good Scout will tell you, there’s nothing like being prepared. No matter what the situation, take the opportunity to remind yourself of the most important three key messages you want people to take away from their interaction with or exposure to you. Link them to your core purpose and company values. Make sure that they are so fundamental to your business that they won’t suddenly slip your mind – but don’t make them meaningless. It might take a while to agree on exactly what these are, and don’t get hung up on the words. If your key message is ‘we do the right thing’, then think about the behaviour you are willing to demonstrate that proves it. The last thing you want is to have scripted answers for difficult questions, but if you prepare your key messages, you can start to think about how you can influence peoples’ perception of you rather than simply being led wherever a journalist or partner wants to lead you.
If your ‘limelight’ moment is the result of a negative crisis, we would strongly suggest you make a list of all the most difficult questions you could possibly be asked, so that you have an opportunity to reflect on the answers. See if you can use your key messages to address the particularly horrible ones. You still want to acknowledge and address the questions, but you may be able to give it a little more context.
If, on the other hand, you are likely to be generating positive attention, you want to give some proper thought to how you can amplify this attention in a way that feels right for your business. How will you engage your social channels? Is there a friendly journalist you should alert about what’s about to go down?
ENGAGE YOUR PEOPLE
At times of high stress, it is important to surround yourself with a small number of people you trust. Think about who these people are and what role they can play. It’s also critical that between all of you, you keep the communication channels wide open – decide how you plan to do that and what your end goal is. That way you can ensure all of you are heading in the same direction when snap decision-making is required.
As a corporate communications agency, we have long believed the phrase ‘you should never waste a good crisis’ to be true. It will seem hard when you are going through it, but how you respond to a situation says as much (if not more) about you as the event that created the situation itself.