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Under Fire

Turn Opinion Around

Here are three ways to take control after a disaster:

1. Take swift action. According to ICM, three-quarters of all crises in the past decade resulted from inappropriate action or inaction by top management. Instead of taking a passive stance and waiting for the media to break down your door, come forward quickly to publicly define the action you'll take to protect consumers or resolve the problem. Your spokesperson should be readily accessible and responsive to the media.

2. Keep employees informed. Brief everyone in your company on the crisis and the steps you're taking to resolve it. That will make it easier for your employees to positively explain your actions to their families and friends and help them understand the important role they play in presenting a positive public image. (Because employees are often pursued by news reporters looking for additional information for their stories, make sure employees know that all press inquiries should be referred to your company spokesperson.)

3. Make information public. Use your company Web site (or set up an emergency site) to communicate up-to-date crisis-resolution information. Also create fact sheets and backgrounders to distribute to the press. Communicating honestly and often with the public and the media will help you weather the storm, gain customer confidence and build trust.

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Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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This article was originally published in the April 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Under Fire.

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