Crisis communication

Media scrutiny is good not only for democracy and society, but also for the organisation under review. And with the growing importance of social media, the price is becoming ever higher for companies and organisations that fail in their social responsibility. We support this trend!

We can help you prevent and deal with media crises through openness and taking responsibility. In the event of an acute crisis, we can help you take control through your own initiative, instead of trying to put a lid on the situation and hoping that the crisis will blow over.

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Sara Arborén

10 tips on crisis communication

An organisational culture that promotes openness, responsibility and a positive attitude towards contact with journalists reduces the risk of a media crisis arising.

Here are Westander’s 10 tips on crisis communication.

Avoid the crisis

1

Respect the role of the media

Companies and organisations that want to earn the confidence of the public must take social responsibility and support media scrutiny. Those who have such an attitude towards the media try harder to run a business that stands up to scrutiny, and this reduces the risk of misconduct. Ultimately, this scrutiny is therefore good for both society and the organisation being reviewed.

2

Build a culture of openness

Encourage an internal culture of openness where all operational aspects are discussed and critical voices can make themselves heard. Employees have a duty of loyalty to deal with any misconduct first and foremost with their employer. Companies and organisations with a closed, authoritarian culture run the risk of employees leaking information to the media.

3

Talk about the social benefit

Be an active social player, and explain continuously how your operations contribute towards positive social development. By taking part in public debate, you encourage responsibility internally within the organisation and make valuable contacts externally. Be concrete and clear in your undertakings and communication. Use quantitative targets, and never promise more than you can deliver.

4

Carry out the placard test

A board or management team that needs to make an important decision should carry out the placard test. Ask yourselves the question: “If our decision became a news story that ended up on a newspaper placard, could we stand by it and explain ourselves?” A chairman or CEO who would have difficulties defending the company’s decision in the media should make a different decision.

5

Take the initiative

If possible, try to forestall criticism and negative publicity by taking the initiative to talk about and deal with any problems as they arise. Should negative media reports begin to emerge, it is important to do what you can quickly to convey your view of the situation. Resist the temptation of ducking for cover and waiting until it all blows over, otherwise you risk making a costly mistake.

Deal with the crisis

6

Be available

Do not make yourselves unavailable to journalists. Instead, prioritise being available to answer questions. Prepare by writing down clear, concise answers to the questions journalists might ask. If you need time to obtain additional information, you can hold on to the initiative by referring journalists to a briefing later that same day.

7

Lay all your cards on the table

Give as full an account as possible, as soon as possible. You will then avoid both speculation and further revelations in the days and weeks that follow. Ensure that relevant documents, correspondence, responses to complaints etc are made available on your website. However, be cautious about making positive statements before you have a sufficiently clear picture of what has happened.

8

Do not diminish the problem

Take criticism very seriously. Any attempt to diminish the problem could easily be interpreted as nonchalance, and often leads to tough follow-up questions. Instead, show that you understand other parties’ irritation and questions. If you have done something wrong, do not blame someone else. Take responsibility, acknowledge the mistake and apologise unreservedly. Do not fall into the temptation of trying to explain in the same breath why you have acted incorrectly, as this can easily be interpreted as making laboured excuses.

9

Use all channels

When the media image is negative, it is important that all your target groups receive your comments via as many channels as possible. Make a list of all the stakeholders who are affected by your operations. Do not forget your own staff, your closest friends and your most important customers. Repeat your main message many times over – on your own website, by email and in personal conversations. Carry out intensive external monitoring, and respond quickly to criticism and questions in social media and in the media’s comment fields.

10

Report on actions

Explain what concrete actions you are currently taking to deal with the issue, and what you will do to prevent the problem arising again. Should you report the matter to the police? Should anyone be dismissed? Should you request an external review? Is there an action plan? What will be different?