Web Exclusive: Crisis communications

|  July 22, 2019
Harvey Goldglantz

Harvey Goldglantz

Harvey Goldglantz, a PMP Hall of Famer (Class of 2018) who has conducted industry crisis communication training, says pest management professionals (PMPs) should review at least annually their policies and processes. He notes revisiting what you have in place will be a great help should the unthinkable happen. In addition, companies should:

⦁ Define crisis. A crisis is when something happens unexpectedly and suddenly. “Work through a couple examples, such as a traffic accident, a contaminated waterway, someone accidentally walking through a treatment,” Goldglantz says. “What happens if the neighbor comes over and gets upset? What are you going to do to respond? Ask for input from your employees, and discuss, even roleplay, how you would respond in the field and at the office when the phone calls come in.” He notes that while crisis communication can be similar to disaster planning for a hurricane or wildfire, it merits its own attention.

⦁ Set protocol. Note that you need to respond to the crisis first, and then call the office at the first available opportunity. “Someone could be posting on social media before you have a chance to even think about it,” Goldglantz says. “Appoint a contact person in the office to whom every employee can refer phone calls for information or interviews, and can be in charge of crafting an official comment on behalf of your company. He or she should also monitor your social media channels and respond appropriately to any coverage of the incident.”

⦁ Put policies in writing. When a crisis hits, thinking logically isn’t always a given. Having a written plan in place to refer to will help your team stay calm and rational. Include your lawyer’s and insurance agent’s contact information. “From the onset, ensure employees are not on social media talking about the incident,” Goldglantz warns. “It’s much easier to avoid rumors by having one official spokesperson. That said, don’t say ‘We’ll have our official statement next week.’ The sooner you get an official message out, the less time there is for rumors to swirl. Have a ‘ghost page’ ready to go on your website that for 99 percent of the time just sits blank, so when a crisis occurs, you can upload your official statement there and then direct everyone to that page.”

⦁ Own up, empathize, apologize when necessary. “Do whatever you need to do to rectify the situation,” Goldglantz says. In the case of an accident or misapplication, taking the situation seriously can go a long way toward mitigating it. “Years ago, my client’s answering service called him at 1 a.m. An emergency room doctor called the company because of an ill toddler. The mother of the child was certain the cause was rodenticide placed under the radiator. My client called the hospital immediately, answered the doctor’s questions honestly and transparently, and stayed in contact all night. By morning, after some research, the doctor realized the child was not poisoned, but rather in the throes of a nasty virus unrelated to anything the client did.

“The client was empathetic, knowledgeable on the questions asked of him, and vigilant,” Goldglantz says. “He did everything right, and that is the key.”

Editor’s note: Goldglantz’s book, “Marketing Matters” is available at PMP‘s bookstore.

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