Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
No company wants to be the subject of negative press. Unfortunately, in the rapid-fire, 24-hour news cycle, even the smallest customer incident can be blown up into a PR crisis.
While you may have a crisis communications plan in place, there's another internal challenge you have to deal with: the inevitable blow to team morale that comes with being at the center of bad press. We asked Forbes Coaches Council members how leaders can guide their teams through this difficult period -- and come out stronger on the other side. Here's what they had to say.
1. Emphasize Your Vision And Mission
Stay true to your vision and mission. Teams are motivated when there is greater clarity on how their work impacts the organization and customers. Meet with your team, be transparent about the situation, emphasize the reasons why the vision and mission are still relevant, and identify what steps you and the team can take together to get back on track. - Alan Trivedi, MBA PCC, Trivedi Coaching & Consulting Group
2. Hire A PR Professional To Help
It’s easy for emotions and feelings to get involved when bad press arises -- it's a major blow to morale. First, take a deep breath and don’t allow staff to take any immediate actions. Second, find a good PR professional who specializes in crisis communication. Finally, recognize that things will get better and this bad press will pass. - Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, CaffeinatedKyle.com
3. Turn Bad Press Into A Morale Booster
Real leaders see and seize opportunity where others don’t. They understand how to pivot situations in the direction of their long-term goals. Bad press can usher fresh ways to align people with a company’s culture and supporting values. It can lead to greater commitments to transparency and communication from front-line employees. - Jay Steven Levin, WinThinking
4. Address The Mistake Head-On
While it can be tempting to put on a "business as usual" facade, failure to immediately address your team in the wake of bad press can quickly spiral into negativity, hostility or mistrust. Take ownership of the situation without avoidance, deflection, blame or criticism. Invite and address any questions or concerns head-on, and then refocus on what's working instead of what's not working. - Ashley Good, Ashley Good Coaching & Consulting
5. Find The Positive
For every bad situation that occurs, there is a lesson that can be learned. Rather than simply focusing on the negative, seek out the lesson so you don't find yourself in the same situation again. Teach your team to acknowledge what happened, evaluate how it happened and develop a plan to move forward. - LaKesha Womack, Womack Consulting Group
6. Make Your Team's Part Of The Solution
At first, you must look at the source of the complaint. Filtering constructive feedback from general noise or ugliness allows you to preserve your energy. If you find the claim is valid, decide what you are going to work on. Make your team part of the solution, incorporate their ideas and communicate what is changing. Mistakes happen, but how we respond is what people remember most. - Jean Ali Muhlbauer, The Muhlbauer Companies, LLC
7. Remain Confident And Positive For Your Team
When leadership holds the vision that we can find the good in a bad situation, personnel will have a better chance of adopting that confidence and maintaining pride of ownership. It's important to have responsibility and make changes where necessary, but a dark cloud of fear and failure never benefited anyone. Maintain a strong, positive front and weather the storm. - Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors International
8. Tell The Truth With Tact And Compassion
You can never go wrong telling the truth with tact and compassion. Address the situation directly. Explain what happened to generate the bad press and why. Don't blame or pass the buck. Instead, help people stay focused on what they can control and let go of what they can't, including what others might say and think. Reaffirm your belief in your team, and outline steps for moving forward. - Gary Bradt, Bradt Leadership, Inc.
9. Show How Resilient You Are
Strong verbal and written communication is needed among leadership to acknowledge and address the issue in the press, provide a perspective and offer accountability details -- then channel energy back to the mission at hand. People will need time to ask questions, process info and have an open dialogue, but it's important for team leadership and line managers to focus and unite people. Model resiliency. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason
10. Be Open About It And Give People a Voice
In the absence of honest conversation, people assume the worst. Raise the bad press issue in a meeting with the people you are responsible for leading. Share your honest reaction to it, and ask people to share how they feel. Conversation engages the region of the brain where we make rational decisions and quiets activity in the part of the brain where we are more likely to make rash decisions. - Michael Stallard, E Pluribus Partners
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