I Run A PR Firm And These Are My Top Five Tips For Handling A Crisis

When faced with a crisis situation, individuals, companies, and organizations should avoid lying about the situation at all costs.

What are your top five pieces of advice when handling communication during a crisis? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Crisis situations are difficult for any organization. But the way they evolve—and whether they create lasting reputational damage for your company or fade away with the next news cycle—depends in large part on the way they are managed.

As the Founder and CEO of Miller Ink, a crisis and strategic communications firm in Los Angeles, I advise my clients to consider the following principles of crisis management.

Tell The Truth

The coverup is often worse than the crime.

When faced with a crisis situation, individuals, companies, and organizations should avoid lying about the situation at all costs. Lies serve only to exacerbate negative press and fray remaining public support. It’s far easier to come back from a mistake than from an orchestrated lie.

Similarly, I always advise my clients to avoid misleading the public with doublespeak or half-truths. Organizations should never manipulate the situation—particularly a serious accident, crime, or misdeed—to advance their own narrative. They should never use jargon or complicated industry language to shroud the true meaning of their words.

This principle equally applies to incorrect information released in good faith. Organizations must be judicious about the information they release. If they choose to publicize information that they believe at the time to be true, and it is later found to be incorrect, the public will perceive the original statement as a lie—no matter how sincere the original intent. It’s always better to say nothing than to speak prematurely.

Be Honest with Yourself

You cannot seek to manage a crisis response without taking an honest assessment of where you stand. For clear eyed perspectives, I recommend clients surround themselves with staff members willing to give them the truth—no matter how unflattering—so that they can shape their crisis communication plan from there. Their response teams should call out bad impulses and pump the breaks on hasty decision-making—not feed impulsive decisions or reactions. You want counselors, not enablers.

Tell Your Own Narrative

If you do not tell your story, someone else will tell it for you.

You want your company’s story—not that of journalists, stakeholders, Twitter users, influencers, or community members—to be front and center in the public conversation around your crisis. The most effective way to do this is by being proactive. Proactive engagement gives you the opportunity to provide framing and context around the situation. When done right, it can even elicit public sympathy and support.

Use Time to Your Advantage

In the long run, time is on your side. All crisis situations eventually begin to fade from public view. This creates an opportunity to rehabilitate your brand.

When developing a crisis response protocol, it is critical to take this principle into account. Your plan for day one of the crisis should differ from your strategy for managing day 100. Matching your response strategy to the realities of your crisis ensures your communications yield the appropriate effect at the appropriate time.

Learn From Your Crisis

Crisis situations often demonstrate problems within organizations that existed in the first place—and provide leadership teams with items to fix.

This intelligence is not idle information. It must be acted upon to prevent the kind of recurrent crises that can quickly erode your brand’s reputation. If your crisis resulted from a data breach, for example, your organization would know to invest in better security for the future.

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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