In the world of PR, there are few guarantees. One thing you can count on though, sooner or later you will be faced with a communication crisis. These can be major or minor, and naturally your first reaction will be something akin to, “Oh I do not want to deal with this now. Get me out of here!”

Maybe your company’s microwave emits deadly Gamma rays when users heat up popcorn for longer than four minutes. Perhaps your CEO has been caught embezzling investor money to feed his Faberge Egg addiction. Whatever the case, good communication practice mandates that you answer for yourself and your constituents to quell the public outcry for information.

Having to fess up to mistakes or act as the bearer of bad news is scary; nobody wants to have to do it. It’s an unpleasant part of life that in business can mean the difference between life and death (figuratively). Here are some steps to follow to make the best out of this bad situation.

Stay on top of the crisis

This should be pretty elementary, but easy to forget when the waves of a media storm are crashing all around you. Since the crisis originated from something your company created, or someone your company employs, then chances are you’re already right in the middle of ground zero. And so, you should have no problem staying ahead of the situation – what caused it, what’s being done to rectify it, where the process currently stands, the likelihood of it being resolved and when, etc. In essence, you control the information at this point. All official news has to come from you now, so you’re in the position of control and it’s up to you to stay there. Make sure you always know what’s going on at any given moment, so you can correct any rumors or explain any processes.

Don’t turtle!

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, it seems like it will never end. Even so, most people want to attempt to hide from it and wait for things to blow over. Things don’t blow over, not in the way you’d hope. While it’s true that the situation will eventually pass, people won’t stop talking about it just because you’re not talking about it. In the digital age, news and information spreads faster than ever before. This means it’s more important to make sure your presence is out there during a crisis, as keeping quiet will make you look ignorant, guilty or worse. Don’t be afraid to get out there and make the public aware that you’re on the case. You don’t have to give full disclosure, but make sure you aren’t perceived as being completely closed off.

Get everyone on the same page

The most important thing in one of these situations is to make sure everyone is agreed on what the message is and what can/should be said. It doesn’t do any good if your spokespeople are saying one thing, but an employee is approached by someone and tells a conflicting story. So make sure everyone follows a set protocol. It’s fine to say “no comment” when approached by the media if you’re uncomfortable with being questioned. The best way to handle it though, is probably to decline giving comment but passing the question along to someone who has been appointed as an official spokesperson during this period.

It will pass

Even though bad times seem like they’ll never end, they always do. And in this current age, the news cycle is even shorter than ever before. The 24-hour constant influx of news means that something new will get a spot in the public eye before you know it. Give it time, and a celebrity will probably cause a drunken scene in public or another key figure will be caught in an infidelity scandal, making your old crisis seem like small potatoes. While this seems to suggest that turtling is an option, because this will pass shortly, it isn’t! It simply means you should keep your cool and stay on top of things, hold down the front line and follow the emergency plan with the reassurance that this too shall pass. What happens after the dust settles though, is up to you and how you acted when things were hectic.

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