I believe there’s a growing crisis in our midst. It’s a crisis of crisis criticism, specifically the speed at which it takes place.
Today, a story barely hits the public before communication professionals pick up their smartphones to tweet, post and voice their opinion – often in real time – about how a brand is “mishandling” a crisis situation (unfortunately, lately there have been more than enough crisis situations to choose from).
I’m not immune to reading a story and thinking I would have handled it a little differently, but I also realize it’s often a knee-jerk reaction and always completely devoid of context. If it’s not my client I’m counseling during a crisis, I don’t know much other than what’s being reported. I don’t know what the communications team knows, nor that of the brand team, operations, customer relations, legal counsel or outside authority (regulatory body or law enforcement) involved in the matter. I don’t know what crisis training they conducted, the extent of their scenario planning or the crisis protocols they have in place.
I’m not opposed to sharing my opinion; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. I’m not saying that the quotable sources lack expertise and I’m not suggesting that our industry avoids healthy discussions that result in best practices and learning from others (both the good and the bad). But the rush to comment (strike that - criticize) while a crisis is still unfolding has made the phrase, “Monday morning quarterback,” obsolete – we’re barely in the second quarter before taking a brand and its people to task.
For me, maybe this all comes down to “that could easily be me.” We are all just a moment away from dropping everything and focusing the next several hours/days/weeks/months dealing with an issue that could cause irreparable harm to a brand, company, individual or organization we work for or represent. Having to do so, while fending off instant criticism from other communications professionals, is both unfair and a disservice to our industry.
If you’re in a crisis and want my expert opinion, by all means reach out to me and I’ll be happy to have a conversation and help you in any way I can. But you can safely assume if you’re in the midst of a crisis, you won’t be reading my advice in the media.
Tim Schramm is Senior Vice President at Coyne PR. Tim provides issues management training and counsel for leading brands in a range of industries.