The recent video of a Fed Ex employee casually tossing a PC monitor over a fence unaware of the fact he was being filmed offers both a lesson in how quickly a reputation threat can go viral but also how a modern organisation should deal with such matters. There have been plenty of past examples of organisations either burying their head in the sand or simply denying there is a problem when the world knows otherwise. The growth of social media and the ability of ordinary folk to post and comment on pictures of what they see makes it impossible to avoid the issue and hope it will go away.
The response of Fed Ex has been first rate both in the way they have used social media to respond but also the speed with which they responded. This doesn’t surprise me. I had recent contact with them via Twitter after I posted a complaint about the erratic driving of one of their delivery guys. Not only were they scanning mentions on Twitter but their response was immediate and helpful.
In view of this, I thought I’d offer a few helpful tips on how to manage a crisis which have been gathered through experience of working in politics, local government and the NHS:
1. Ensure you have all the facts at hand before you comment
The worst thing you can do is release misleading information. Not only can this cause heartbreak or false hope for families of victims or anxiety for customers it can lead to the impression that your organisation does not know what it is doing. Regardless of the pressure from the 24/7 media to comment, make sure when you do it is accurate. This can be difficult during an unexpected crisis but important nevertheless.
2. Never say ‘no comment’
Avoid the temptation to do this. It is one of those phrases that suggests to the person asking the question that you are being evasive. If you really can’t say anything them create a much more suitable holding statement rather than churning out the old ‘no comment’. It is impersonal and should be avoided.
3. If your organisation is at fault take responsibility
There is nothing worse to see than a company executive trying to wriggle out of responsibility for something that has happened. This doesn’t mean that you accept full responsibility but it is better to interject shared concern about a situation in any messages. The public will respond much better to this. I remember an example of an incident where a child died at a theme park and rather than express sorrow for the family and promise a full and thorough investigation, the owner simply reiterated the theme park had recently passed the most thorough of inspections.
4. Never under-estimate the power of social media
If your organisation has made a mistake which is being reported widely the chances are people are commenting on this across social media sites. Hopefully, your organisation will have already developed a social media strategy enabling it to monitor and respond to these comments.
5. Control your messaging
Along with gathering the correct facts the tight control of your messages is important. You need to identify those people who will speak to the media and brief them accordingly. You will also have to ensure no other staff speak to the media if approached and that the information you post on your website or social media sites carries the same message.