Crisis Communications: Finding the Right Formula

Abernathy MacGregor is one of the nation’s leading crisis management firms. We have a long record of success in legacy-defining situations. Our work helps protect both reputations and valuations. Our methods support business strategies, help safeguard operations, minimize regulatory and litigation burdens, all by effectively addressing victims, employees, communities, customers and investors. And our deep expertise in this area can guide companies through one of the most vexing crisis-related questions: Just how aggressive should you be when confronted with a significant crisis?

Crisis management requires aggressive action. But should the company be loud and out front, confronting critics? Or should you say as little as possible and move swiftly to resolve the underlying situation? Both strategies can be effective, each in its own way. Oftentimes, the decision between acting quickly from behind the scenes versus publicly responding is dependent on where the crisis is in its life cycle. Our approach is designed to ensure we tailor the strategy to achieve the ultimate business goal, which is to help a company address a crisis effectively and return to business as usual as quickly as possible. This is why we develop a bespoke strategy for each matter we work on, even with the same client, and why many situations require some combination of both approaches.

Here’s when quietly resolving the issue, by fixing the origin of your problem, is the right strategy:

  • There’s a solution at hand that is most effectively implemented quietly.
  • The key constituencies are not immediately affected.
  • The subject matter is so complex that only experts can understand it — so the likelihood of misunderstanding or misinterpretation is high.
  • Your understanding of the facts is changing quickly and anything your company says now may later be proven wrong, which will damage credibility.

Here are some situations in which an actively public approach can make the most sense:

  • Stakeholders may panic without reassurance (especially if social media is involved).
  • An adversary is hammering away with arguments against you that could sway regulators, legislators, judges, juries.
  • There’s a long-running public conflict in which it’s in your self-interest to influence public or opinion leader sentiment.

Working as a team, often with attorneys, financial advisors, security experts and others, we find the best way to determine the right path forward.

We’ve been doing this work since 1991, when together with a major insurer we invented crisis management covered by insurance. We’ve been behind some of the biggest headlines in crisis communications, and some of least-noticed and soonest-forgotten disasters of the new century. We’re fast acting and assertive either way. We know the right formula.