An often-overlooked aspect of crisis communication is knowing when and how
to shift into recovery mode once the crisis has passed.
Some authors, including me at times, use a gun-fight analogy to talk about preparing for, and responding to, a crisis. -- Always watch for trouble, don't draw until it's absolutely necessary, be sure of your target, aim carefully but shoot fast, etc. -- It's a fun and somewhat appropriate, albeit overly dramatic, way of being ready for a crisis. The problem is: it leads people to think everything instantly goes back to normal when the "shooting" stops.
Unfortunately, that's not true. Not for gun-fights, and not for public relations crises. There's a very messy and sometimes prolonged aftermath. It can include caring for the wounded, clarifying underlying causes, making changes to prevent further crises, reassuring the public, and re-establishing a sense of security. None of these things happen automatically. Nor do they happen overnight. And, regrettably, they're often not addressed by crisis management gurus.
A similar observation was made in a recent online article by Mark Dollins and Laurel Kennedy in CW, IABC's Communication World Magazine. Both of them have extensive, high-level public relations experience and have helped guide corporations through major crises. As they see it: "The acute phase of crisis communication is well documented, crisis recovery is less understood and equally critical."
So, what they have proposed is a five-step process for crisis recovery and reputation repair that can help an organization get past its crisis and ultimately return to business as usual. Here are the five steps they address more fully in their article:
- "Recognize the acute crisis has ended, time for a shift to recovery mode.
- "Recalibrate activities, assess the damage to the company, brand.
- "Repair reputation, articulate an outreach strategy for key stakeholders.
- "Redirect negative dialogue, preempt with positive programming.
- "Reinvigorate brand values and the stated social contract."
Personally, I don't like some of the jargon they use, but their basic approach and underlying ideas are very sound and deserve serious consideration. It's a much better approach to the aftermath of a crisis than Wyatt Earp standing in the street blowing the smoke away from the barrel of his trusty six-shooter.
This site was on Northern Kentucky University servers while I taught there, and it remained there for quite a while after I retired.