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“Up” your game in crisis management

I’ve had the opportunity to see a few crisis management situations in my time. (I’m old.) The ones that have worked out the best had less to do with the actual crisis and a lot more to do with the company’s plan for crisis management. The specifics of every crisis are different, but what’s important is that your company has someone in charge whenever a crisis emerges, and that they have a plan for dealing with the crisis, whatever it is. That plan can take many forms, but there are three basic pieces to every crisis management plan that apply almost universally. Does your crisis plan address them?

Whatever industry you are in, no matter what your company’s size, here are the three things that you have to do in any crisis:

  • Fess up. If your company is in crisis, it is likely it is because you did something wrong. If you stonewall, you will just make things worse. Find out immediately what happened and go public with your apology and your promise that it won’t happen again. If you are lucky (and credible), that will at least halt your reputational feeding frenzy.
  • Clean up. Whatever you did wrong must be rooted out at its source. You must truly understand what happened and remove every trace of what went wrong. If you just handle things on the surface, you leave yourself to the drip, drip, drip of a slow death to a story that looks a little worse every day. Instead, get ahead of the story by cleaning up the whole problem right away.
  • Wise up. It’s tempting to apologize and clean up your act and then go back to business as usual. Don’t. Business as usual is what caused the crisis. If you had a systemic failure, you need to address the system. If you had employees compromise their integrity, you need to turn down the pressure on performance that caused the bad behavior. If your crisis was caused by a rogue employee, how did the behavior go undetected? Whatever went wrong requires a deep investigation that truly finds the root cause and addresses it. If you don’t figure out how to prevent a similar event in the future, you’ve missed a huge opportunity.

How many of the three “ups” do you have in your crisis management plan? You need them all to “up” your game.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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