Organizations around the world are faced with challenging crises daily. At some point, no matter how small, your organization will face a crisis. Whether you help create it or it’s simply out of your control won’t matter to the public. What will matter is how your organization responds to the situation.

Your organization’s crisis communication plan should outline the necessary steps to take when a crisis occurs. But, if your organization is still building its plan or doesn’t have one yet, we’ve outlined the basics of how to effectively respond to a crisis.

Gather information first, communicate second

Amid a crisis, people typically think releasing a statement instantly is the way to go. Communication to the public should be done in a timely manner, but not before you have gathered all the facts and understand the issue to the best of your ability. This is an important first step because it gives you time to craft an accurate statement rather than running the risk of retracting an inaccurate statement later on.

Stick to need-to-know details only

When you’re ready to release an official statement, think about what the public needs to know. There shouldn’t be any secrets kept from the public during a crisis, but avoid releasing an abundance of unnecessary details that could overcomplicate or confuse the issue. Provide just enough information to responsibly inform the public on the situation and how your organization is handling it.

Become the trusted voice

During a crisis, being a credible source to the public can be difficult, especially when some people will assume you’re “spinning” your story. The best way to combat this assumption is to be completely honest – even if the truth is hard to swallow. If you don’t know the answer to questions thrown at you by the media, say so. Then explain how you plan on finding the answers.

When a crisis strikes, your organization gets one opportunity to make it right. That’s why it’s so important to take the time and do the work to effectively respond to a crisis. In the end, it won’t matter what happened as much as how you handled the situation and fixed the problem. Rely on your PR agency or in-house PR department to properly guide company leadership when a crisis occurs.