11 Rules of Crisis Communication

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Mosaic Marketing Studio attended Public Relations Society of America’s #PRSAGameChangers conference at the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle, Washington. It was an amazing conference bursting with useful and inspiring information.

The funniest — and perhaps most serious —  talk was by Matt McKenna of Greenbrier. He is a public relations guru, having worked with the Clintons and Uber.

Here are McKenna’s 11 rules of Crisis Communication:

1. Don’t defend the unknown.
2. Facts don’t need spin. The name of the game is transparency and honesty.
3. FACT: Bad things happen on weekends, holidays and when the weather is nice.
4. We all do windows. We all do floors. = In the midst of a crisis, it is all hands on deck.
5. Don’t answer questions based on hypotheticals. It is ok to say, “I’m not prepared/ready to answer that question right now. Can I get back to you?”
6. Saying, “Don’t quote me on this,” really means, “Scoop incoming!”
7. The media is a terrible lens through which to tell your story.  The Obama administration, for example, turned to YouTube, blogs, etc.
8. Don’t repeat the negative. We all know the famous example, “I am not a crook.” Currently, it is Nikki Haley, “I am not confused.” People will keep repeating the negative statement. Instead, state the positive.
9. Never* use your principle to deliver the bad news unless they are exceptionally good with media. *The exception is when your principle is very good with media. He used the Starbuck’s CEO apologizing for the Philly incident as someone who got it right.
10. Withholding information almost always gets organizations/people into trouble. It is better to give information as it comes in, “Here’s what we know so far…”
11. Apologize. People love to get into a fight. An honest apology shuts it down. People are disappointed. They move on to the next topic. His example of an honest apology was Jonah Hill’s apology on Jimmy Fallon. His example of how NOT to apologize is BP CEO Tony Hayward’s, “I want my life back,” statement.
Bonus: Plan ahead for the bad stuff. Create templates that we can use in the event of…

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