How to safeguard your reputation in a crisis
Reputations are won or lost in the moment after a crisis.
In midst of your response, it’s easy to forget to protect your status and trustworthiness. Whether you win or lose, your reputation is far more within your control than you might think.
Crisis is the moment of choice—where your destiny is determined one way or the other.
When these situations present themselves, everyone is afforded a moment to make a decision without severe repercussions. It’s what follows your decision that matters greatly.
Manage the ‘Moment of Decision’
Crisis management is the management of the choices and criteria used to make them. You must ask the right question in the moment of choice.
- “What should we do?” This question, in some form, is the incorrect but common first thought. You put yourself in a selfish mental space and causes choices to be made out of a desire for self-protection. You end up doing or saying things that make the problem worse.
- “What should we say?” This question is also incorrect. You end up saying things that comfort yourself or the organization you represent, instead of taking action.
Crisis response is a simple formula: what you do plus what you say. If done thoughtfully, an organization will make it through with better potential outcomes.
What is the right question to ask?
If crisis communication is all about asking the right questions at the right time, what is the right question? Here is one:
What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization to do in this situation?
Silence is never golden.
You have a limited amount of time to communicate to maintain control of the message. Silence can be toxic for three reasons:
1. It can be perceived as indifference or as affirmation of guilt.
2. It allows critics, adversaries and media outlets to define the crisis, your motives, and your actions.
3. It invites critics and opportunists to rally public opinion against you.