Is There a Shark Circling Your Business?
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You know the feeling. You’re enjoying a day at the beach. You head into the water. You’re enjoying yourself. It feels great. But you’re just not fully … relaxed. Why?
Because for a quarter century Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” in partnership with Steven Spielberg’s animatronic great white, has been reinforcing our fears that sharks will get us. That nagging fear that, despite the odds, you will be a shark attack victim is not unlike owning a business. While you hope to avoid a crisis situation, there is always the chance of one looming unseen. If the worst happens, are you prepared?
Nothing assembles people at the shoreline quite like the moment someone screams, “Shark!” In that case, one word achieves the goal of getting people out of the water. The right response can make all the difference in a crisis situation. In honor of the 25th anniversary of “Shark Week,” here are five communications tips if your small business faces a crisis situation:
1. Have a Prepared Spokesperson
Did you know that sharks can smell a single drop of blood in an Olympic-sized pool? So can a lot of reporters. Throwing an unprepared spokesperson in front of the media is like throwing chum in the water. Choose one spokesperson and make sure they are media trained in advance. Take it one step further and have a crisis plan ready. A plan is your first aid kit in a crisis and will save you time and frustration if the worst happens.
2. Response Time Matters
You never hear shark attack victims say that they saw the shark and had plenty of time to leisurely swim to shore. You do hear that the shark “came out of nowhere” and “it all happened so fast.” With social media outlets providing real time means for your crisis situation to go viral, understand today’s communications environment. You no longer have 24 hours to get your plan together. When US Air Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson, photos were tweeted almost immediately, while the company was called “behind the curve” for taking 11 minutes to respond.
3. All Press is Not Good Press
The mere sight of a shark fin breaching the surface is enough to start a media feeding frenzy. Media coverage, in particular this Time magazine cover, led to 2001 being branded the “Summer of the Shark” (but, in fact, attacks decreased from the year before). Controversy breeds interest, but it is short-sighted and misguided to pursue things that may pollute your message and permanently injure your brand.
4. Say No to "No Comment"
In a crisis, tension sometimes leads to a communications shutdown. That’s a mistake. You can participate in a news story without compromising your brand. Help media tell your story correctly by communicating your key messages and facts. And if you’re stumped by a reporter’s question, it’s better to explain why a question can’t be answered or to offer to get back to a reporter with more information later.
5. Spin Doesn’t Exist
Lastly, and most importantly, spin doesn’t exist. Thanks in large part to myth perpetuated by TV and movies, many people harbor the belief that they can “spin” a story to their advantage. People see right through attempts to spin and the problem only grows.