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Last week, my social media public relations class had the privilege of hearing from Jeff Nene, public relations director of Convoy of Hope, a faith-based non-profit organization in Springfield, Mo., with a global reach. Prior to class, I had worked with Jeff before as his intern briefly, so I am familiar with the organization and their goals. He gave our class a great example of how to handle a crisis gracefully that could potentially harm your organization’s reputation and good tips to crisis communication.
Say it all
First, Jeff said it is imperative to be genuine and transparent when communicating during a crisis. Do not hide undesirable details or try and spin the truth. He gave us four tips for communicating in a crisis:
- You must be genuine while finding common ground.
- Say what you do and do what you say.
- Find compelling stories if at all possible and make those your emphasis.
- Realize and embrace the power of words.
Say it first
Second, when managing a crisis, be sure to say your message first because “in the absence of information, people make up their own.” He shared examples of different organizations that waited two or three days to respond to a crisis, and their precise message means nothing because the damage is already done.
Say it yourself
Lastly, it is important to communicate the information yourself. Do not hide behind a press release, computer screen or the news reports. Get your spokesperson out there and respond to the crisis in person with humility and transparency. Do not let the reporters, other organizations or the public tell your story.
Convoy of Hope’s Crisis
Jeff shared an example of when he represented Convoy of Hope during a crisis. It had sponsored a community outreach event in Springfield, and someone reported to the news station that they had found bugs in the food given out at the outreach. This story had the potential to damage Convoy’s reputation, but Jeff handled the situation gracefully by apologizing to the family it affected and offering to right the wrong, while at the same time assuring the public of Convoy of Hope’s diligence in keeping the food it delivers safe.
He promised to give fresh food to anyone it affected in the community and took the news crew into the warehouse and had the reporters open different food packages to show this as a rare occurrence. He practiced what he preached by saying it all, saying it first and saying it himself. The story did not detract from the successful community outreach, and the people wronged were given fresh food. Everyone won.
Jeff gave a great presentation, and it was good to see him again. Convoy of Hope is a great organization. If you are interested in learning more about what they do around the world, check out their website, Facebook page or Twitter account.