Don’t let the media – or the public – own the narrative. When a crisis hits, directly reporting your version of the story ensures that you have an opportunity to avoid rumors and misinformation. But who is the right spokesperson?
In most cases, crisis response requires the highest-level leadership. But does your president or CEO have the experience, training and tools to be an authentic spokesperson during a time of crisis? Any organization faced with allegations of wrong-doing needs an authentic spokesperson. Lacking compassion or empathy, or any emotion at all can be the quickest way to anger your audience and lose your brand’s credibility.
Former BP CEO Tony Hayward’s monumental gaff in the days following the Gulf oil spill stands the test of time as just how offensive a lack of compassion can be, particularly in an incident where lives were lost. He told the press: “I’m sorry. We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”
Hayward quickly back-peddled and posted an apology, for the apology, the next day on Facebook. “Those words don’t represent how I feel about this tragedy and certainly don’t represent the hearts of the people of BP … My first priority is doing all we can to restore the lives of the people of the Gulf region and their families – to restore their lives, not mine.”
Do you believe him? Of course not, and neither did the public. Your first response is most critical because it colors all that follow. If you initial comments sound hollow and self-serving, every future statement will come across as dishonest.