Navigating a crisis can be difficult, especially as providers of a public good. Here are 6 tips to help you get through a crisis:
Identify Your Stakeholders
These people should be first in line to know what’s developing. It may be easiest to make a list of who these people are, so that as news and information develops you can quickly inform them. For transit providers, this is likely your CEO and board members.
Gather All the Facts
It may feel simple to relay information as you receive it, but it’s more important to gather as much information as possible before going public. Unanswered questions leave room for speculation, the very thing you are trying to mitigate. During a health crisis or epidemic, this may mean gathering information from credible sources such as the CDC and WHO, to help your agency and riders understand the severity of the crisis and best practices.
Inform Your Employees
Employees are often overlooked when it comes to relaying information during crises, but they shouldn’t be the last to know. Employees are your internal customers, and leaving them in the dark sows discord. Remember, happy employees are productive employees.
Get Ahead of the Press
Media will want to know what’s happening and what your agency is doing about it. If you follow the steps ahead, you can be prepared when it’s time to speak, perhaps even offering the story to them before they get to you. Offering the story to the media allows you to control the narrative.
If you get a request for comment, don’t reply with “no comment” or dismiss the reporter. They’re more likely to fill in the gaps themselves, potentially leading to bad press. If you’re still gathering information and aren’t ready to give a public comment, offer to get back in touch after you have prepared a statement.
Press releases can serve as a resume for agencies. Your public statement will want to dispel misinformation, stress safety, and share action plans. Remember to avoid jargon when relaying information to the public. Simplicity is best.
When the crisis is over and things have settled down, normal operations will have to resume. You’ll need to plan for how to re-engage with your riders once the panic has subsided. Don’t let those things fall to the wayside in the midst of the crisis.
Learn and Improve
Now that you’ve made it through a crisis, you’ll want to be prepared before the next one arises. One way to do this is to create a crisis communications team. Team members might include: legal, communications personnel, external stakeholders (for agencies this might be law enforcement), and executives. With the right group of people on board, you can learn from any mistake or obstacle you’ve encountered along the way to make the next potential crisis easier to navigate. In the end, this will improve the safety and operations for employees and riders alike.