“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab a crucifix. Seven, eight, better stay awake. Nine, ten, never sleep again.”
What are you most afraid of? Is is a bad rumor starting about your organization? Maybe it’s that you will be a part of major catastrophe like is going on in the Gulf of Mexico or the mining disaster not too long ago. Maybe it will be something like what is going on in Nashville right now with the flooding and you are stuck trying to explain why neighborhoods and interstates weren’t constructed better. Whatever it may be, everyone has a boogeyman or a Freddy Krueger, something that keeps you up at night.
Wes Craven has made a living out of playing off our fears. With a career spanning over 3 decades and multiple hit movies, Mr. Craven knows how to get right at our core and rip the fear out of us. He had directed 7 films before he created the idea of a boogeyman that could actually kill you in your sleep, but many consider 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street his official step into the media spotlight. What could be more terrifying than a villain who preyed on your worst nightmares?
If you haven’t seen the movie you might want to avert your eyes, but the bad guy loses (kind of). “How do a bunch of teenagers from suburbia destroy a nightmare of demonic ability?” you may ask. That is a very good question and I would pose that they succeeded in the exact same way we can succeed against our boogeymen. There are many good articles and blogs about how to face PR disasters (see here, here and here), but I’d like to propose 3 steps that every company should apply to any crisis plan (you should definitely already have a crisis plan in place by the way).
1. Identify Your Boogeyman – This, to me, is always the first step. You wouldn’t handle a bad rumor on Internet forums the same way you would handle a death on company grounds. Make sure you are attacking the right enemy before initiating a full-scale war. In Nightmare…, the kids first had to learn who Freddy Krueger was before they could even begin to think about what he wanted and how to stop him. If you want to get technical with it, figure out if your crisis is an Act of God, a Mechanical Problem, a Human Error, or a result of Management Decisions, Actions, or Inactions (thank you ICM for your categories).
2. Create a plan – Now I know I said you should already have a crisis communications plan in place before you need it, and I stand by that. This step is more related to how to personalize that plan for your present nightmare. Since the rise of new media, problems spread quicker than ideas and you won’t have a lot of time to adapt your plan to the situation. When planning for crisis scenarios, always anticipate the unexpected. Have plans for any possible catastrophe. I’d go so far as to have a vague outline of what you wold do in case the Cold War started back up or we were invaded by aliens (what, you think aliens won’t want your product or service, think again).
3. Face Your Fears – The lesson of Nightmare on Elm Street is that eventually, we all have to face what we are afraid of. You can’t hide behind corporate doors and crisis plans forever. Nancy’s plan is to enter her dream and drag Freddy into her world and your plan should be the same. I’d advise you to already have a presence in the areas that could possibly erupt around you and when the worst happens, be ready to drag it into the light and fight it on your own terms. Never lie about the issue, always be transparent as to not give your nightmare more power and train all you employees on how to act during a crisis (thanks a lot untrained Glen for falling asleep when Nancy needed you the most).
Stand tall and face your fears. Freddy Krueger only has the power that we give him and our crises are no different. By doing nothing you let them grow but attacking them in the wrong way will leave you battered and broken. Grab the right tools, get ready to get a little dirty, and let’s send those nightmares back where they belong.