Why your feelings aren’t important in a crisis

Did I make you feel bad? Sorry, not sorry…

If you’ve got a media crisis happening in your business, chances are the only person you’re going to hate more than the person causing it is me – the media crisis manager.


Because in the course of making sure the problem goes away as quickly as possible and your brand suffers as little damage as possible, I’m probably going to have to tell you a bunch of stuff you don’t want to hear. Mean and hurtful stuff about what Facebook trolls and the Google machine is saying (or will say if you don’t get your response right) about your business .

Much of it, you probably already know and have been quietly hoping you’d never have to deal with. Some of it will be a horrible revelation and you’ll be tempted to shoot the messenger.

But trust me – you need this.

Why you don’t want it sugar-coated

Imagine you’re getting ready to hit the town. You turn to your friend and ask, “Does my bum look big in this dress?” (If you’re a bloke, it might be, “Do my guns look scrawny in this shirt…?”)

A friend will tell you, “No”. Regardless of how your bum looks. Even if it looks the size of a planet, a friend will still say, “No Babe, you look like J-Lo”, because she cares about you. She will put your feelings and her relationship with you first. If you go out looking like you stuffed a pumpkin down the back of your pants, so be it. You’ll never know…

Make it easy for your people to be honest with you

The challenge for an in-house PR Manager is to balance the need to preserve their ongoing relationship with you – the boss (and the one who pays their bills) – against their need to tell you what you need to hear to safely navigate the crisis.

If you’re the kind of person who takes bad news badly, your team will have a strong vested interest in telling you this mess doesn’t stink. So if you’re hearing a lot of, “No Babe, you look like J-Lo,” while they’re scrambling behind your back trying to sort things out, you might need to start practising your poker face in times of trouble.

Because even if your team can convince you that your business’s arse doesn’t look like a Tonka truck from behind, every person who catches a glimpse of it is going to know your posse didn’t have your back. But at least you’re not mad with them right?

You can handle the truth

That’s why a real friend will tell you the truth; the unvarnished truth in all its ugly detail. And in a crisis, your PR advisor is the realest friend you’re going to have – if you let them cut you with the harsh reality of your situation.

It’ll hurt but it’s a good kind of hurt. The kind of hurt that means you’re finally facing things that needed to be dealt with. The kind of hurt that will hopefully keep your business out of the news, off social media and away from harm.

So if your crisis manager isn’t making you feel uncomfortable – even a little bit upset at times – they might be holding out on you. Ask them for the truth. You can handle it. And it sure is a hell of a lot better than being the top trending topic on Twitter for the next 48 hours…

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