In celebration of National Lemonade Day on May 1st, students across 31 cities in the United States are opening 120,000 lemonade stands and genConnect is celebrating our first ever Entrepreneur Week. Throughout this week we’ve brought you career advice and tips from Maria Bartiromo, anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell With Maria Bartiromo,” Sean Branagan, Director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, mini-entrepreneurs that spoke on their past experience with Lemonade Day, and Vicki Salemi, Career expert and author of Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York.
A significant part of maintaining a business or organization rests in successful communication with the public. We turned to the Lemonade Day team and its Founder, Michael Holthouse, for his tips on crisis management on the job:
Crisis planning and situation management is best compared to religion. While there is no absolute right or wrong way to handle a tricky scenario, it is important for an organization to act consistently. Switching from one approach to another, mid crisis, is the worst strategy. People will see through it and suspect that you have not been or are now not being honest. More often than not, they are probably right. In crisis situations it is common for an organization to default to the “no comment” advice of their legal or financial counsel. While it is important and prudent to consider all perspectives, it is equally important that a long-term view be taken during a crisis situation. Proceeding with the best short-term financial or legal position often yields long-term consequences in the court of public opinion, which are exponentially more damaging to a brand.
- Be proactive to better control the message. If the media can’t get an answer from you, they will find another source – and you might not agree with their choice or what they include in their story.
- The public is forgiving of everything except for an ongoing lie or blatant evasion. It’s the end of your credibility not just in this situation but moving forward.
- Operate from a foundation of integrity – not fear or greed.
- Never say “no comment.”
- Don’t ignore a journalist. The good ones don’t give up. The bad ones will make it up.
Preparing for a Crisis
- Create a written plan and define Prepared for Life’s “Code Black” protocol – where local leadership knows their roles and what to do instantly.
- Determine who needs to be notified in the event of a crisis and how should they be informed? Do all the regional teams and agencies need to be notified? Is the crisis contained or national reaching?
- Determine specific physical safety and privacy procedures that need to be taken during a crisis.
- Designate primary spokesperson
- The entire team needs to be informed of the plan and briefed on its contents.
- Sit down in advance and think about what primary messages should be communicated.
- Answers should be short and to the point.
- Only address critical issues.
- Do not stray from the primary messages.
- If you have sufficient time, a written statement is sometimes the best way to begin the dialogue with stakeholders, however one should never be given without also providing media and stakeholders the opportunity for questions.
- Deflect difficult questions or ones which you are not best equipped to answer to other authorities, i.e., police, fire, etc.
- Do not answer speculative questions. If the reporter is taking you down this path you can simply say, ” I understand where you are going but at this point it’s all hypothetical until we collect more facts, so it’s really premature for any of us to guess.”
During the Crisis
- Gather your team and launch your crisis plan.
- Identify the real crisis – the one you can do something about (there may be many options from which to choose).
- Imagine the absolute worst case scenario and work backwards from there.
- Don’t panic and don’t appear panicked in front of staff or the media.
- In many cases, difficult, quick decisions have to be made. In times of crisis, democracy ceases to exist; respect those in charge.
- Time spent building consensus internally during a crisis is time wasted in the eyes of the media and public, and likely their perception of you is being diminished. While you might not agree with certain decisions, it is important to recognize that consistent, fast internal and external messaging needs to take place.
- Tell your team everything – first. Honesty is critical.
- Reach out to stakeholders – sponsors, partners and investors – early and proactively.
- Issue a preliminary statement to the media, in person, with handouts in writing.
- The internet can be one of your most powerful tools, and it can also be your downfall – out of sight is not out of mind.
- Get the right message out into cyberspace ASAP because there are no editors to keep others from contributing their view of the facts.
- Throughout the crisis period, have the same spokesperson available to the media.
- Closely monitor media coverage every day.
- Correct important factual errors promptly, but calmly. Don’t get bogged down in details that mean nothing to 99 percent of the people out there.
More on Lemonade Day:
- Lemonade Day Tips for Kids, by Sean Branagan
- National Lemonade Day: Little Entrepreneurs on How to Succeed in Business
- National Lemonade Day: 9 Tips for College Grads by Vicki Salemi
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