by Maria Lahiffe
United Airlines, Uber and Dove have recently provided viral examples of public relations crises. Not-for-profits can also find themselves in hot water with funders, volunteers and staff. An unexplained client death, food poisoning outbreak or sticky fingered treasurer will quickly land a non-for-profit under public scrutiny.
If you don’t prepare, then you will incur more damage, having to devote ever-more resources to fixing your reputation, rather than serving your stakeholders. The good news is, if you DO prepare ahead of time, you can turn a crisis around and maybe even use it to improve your public image. Most of these steps can, and should, be done proactively, before any crisis appears on the horizon. 
We talked about the seven proactive steps you can take, to be prepared for a crisis, in this previous post. Reacting well to a crisis depends very much on good preparation, so please go back and read how to prepare before moving on. I’ll wait.
Okay, now that you’ve laid the groundwork, you’re ready for when the storm hits.
When a crisis hits, you absolutely need to get information before you react. Issue the appropriate holding statement(s) to make sure people know you are aware and you are working on a solution.
Some things to consider when assessing a crisis situation include: 
If you have completed the proactive steps 1-7, then your communications team already has its holding statements, and it knows what type of information its stakeholders are looking for. If you have not completed those steps, then now is the time to do so.
You know what type of information your stakeholders are looking for. Your next step is to decide what each stakeholder group needs to know about this crisis. Keep it simple. Have no more than three main messages which go to all stakeholders, plus, as necessary, one or two additional audience-specific messages for each stakeholder group.
Adapt your messages to the media. People consume information differently on Facebook than they do on Twitter. Emails are different again, as are news articles. And so on.
After the brown matter stops flying, you are not done yet. Make sure to analyze the crisis and its response, to figure out what you can learn, and how you can do better next time. Some questions to ask in your debrief are:
Record this in a formal document, which can inform Steps 1-7 as you lay the groundwork for an even better response the next time a crisis hits.
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