A panel of industry experts discussed the four phases of crisis communication during the inaugural IMC Connect! event Friday, April 1 at The Inn at Ole Miss.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Timothy Coombs, a professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University, and featured:
- Chris Chiames, Chief Communication Officer at Carnival Cruise Line
- Renee Malone, President and Founding Partner at KQ Communications
- Reade Tidwell, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Chick-fil-A
- Steve Holmes, Vice President of Corporate Communications and External Affairs at The Home Depot
- Jenny Robertson, SVP, Integrated Marketing and Communication at FedEx Service
Dr. Coombs said the four phases include stealing thunder, empathy, accountability, and moral outrage. He described “stealing thunder” as creating a loss.
Empathy occurs when stakeholders are a priority, not just psychological support, but also addressing physical safety. Accountability does not mean you are responsible for what happened, but you are responsible for what happens to solve the problem. And moral outrage occurs when people perceive injustice and see it happen to other people.
Panelists explained that a crisis is a long term issue that you will manage over a period of time. The organization principles should guide your decision-making, and it is essential to make consistent decisions throughout, as well as build trust within your organization to be successful, or you will be slow and miss the boat.
Some of the key takeaways from the panel included the importance of:
- Timeliness – Fast and good beats slow and perfect every time.
- There should be an alignment with the executive team over guiding principles.
- Prepare for the different categories of crises. However, empathy and sympathy are always first.
- Make an effective response that will help the organization in a crisis.
- The goal is to avoid crisis, present calmness, and don’t give an indication that there is a crisis.
- Everyday is a dress rehearsal for crisis.
- It is not always about you; it’s about the company, the people you are protecting, and the associates.
- A company crisis is not about what you say; it’s about what you do. Don’t let your customer service fall apart.
- Actions speak louder than words. There should be a multi-discipline approach to all actions.
- Learn from the best practices across the spectrum and not just in your industry.
- Read other companies’ crises, and see how they are handling the situation, and think about how you would handle the crisis.
- You can’t ignore the internal side of crisis communication.
- In a crisis, clarity is absolutely crucial.
The panel on crisis communication was just one part of the inaugural IMC Connect! Other panels included topics such as social justice, social media, and advertising/building a brand.
By Jordyn Rodriguez and Margaret Savoie.
Follow @umjourimc on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.Tags: crisis communication, featured, imc, Ole Miss, Oxford, School of Journalism and New Media, University of Mississippi