- Co-founder and President of STARKMAN, a public relations, branding, and marketing firm with offices in New York City and San Francisco.
- Clients have included Fortune 100 companies, national not-for-profits, leading financial services firms, and startup companies.
- Previously held leadership positions at respected PR and investor relations firms, including senior vice president at The MWW Group, where he oversaw corporate communications and investor relations, and Morgen-Walke Associates, where he was responsible for the firm’s corporate communications practice.
- Worked as an editor and reporter at major newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, including The Wall Street Journal, American Banker, The Detroit News, The Toronto Star, and The (Montreal) Gazette. Earlier, he worked as a copywriter at W.B. Doner in Michigan.
- Eric is cited in the acknowledgements of four books written by leading financial journalists.
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From defective products to executive wrongdoing, from a local natural disaster to workplace accidents, from marketing missteps to supply chain interruptions and financial irregularities, there are countless scenarios that can unfold. Each poses real risks to a company's operations, reputation and competitive position.
There is no standard blueprint for how best to respond when a corporate crisis occurs. They vary in type, severity and frequency, and the specifics of the situation will dictate the best strategic response. Effective, efficient crisis management requires knowing what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Equally important, it requires having appropriate influence and impact with C-Suite leadership and the board, which may not necessarily be inclined to be as transparent about the situation with employees, customers, the public and media as best practices in crisis management dictate.
There is some commonality, however, in terms of the factors that combine to dictate not only how best to respond to a real or perceived corporate crisis, but also the company's likelihood of weathering it with its integrity, credibility, and customer confidence intact.
Chief among these are:
- The strength of the company’s reputation going into the situation
- The nature of the crisis itself and the severity with which it can damage the company’s reputation
- Corporate leadership's ability to communicate authentically, clearly, and credibly
- Prior crisis scenario planning in place to facilitate a deft response to situations when they occur
While it's not possible to foresee all the potential business interruptions, there are a great number of problematic scenarios that can be anticipated. Accordingly, the important decisions around policies, process, structure, and leadership can and should be made well before a crisis hits.
Current Best Practices in corporate crisis management include:
Don't underestimate the role of corporate culture: Establish a code of ethics and a clear articulation of expected business practices and hold all employees accountable to them.
Be prepared: Have a crisis management plan in place and review/update it semi-annually; have a company policy on representing the company or sharing its proprietary information on social media forums, particularly in times of crisis.
Know your crisis response team: Have a properly trained team of executives identified and their crisis roles defined before an event happens.
Move quickly to assess the severity of the crisis: Gather pertinent information, identify the "knowns vs. unknowns," and learn the command structure/process/timing of any involved outside authorities.
Do not delay your first communication: Releasing official information gives you greater control over the messaging and the opportunity to debunk any misinformation circulating – but stick to facts and don't speculate.
Control your messages: Even the most well-spoken executive should not attempt to "shoot from the hip" when engaging stakeholders in the event of a crisis; prepare key messages, brief the spokesperson(s), and keep them fully updated on all new information.
Be accessible, transparent, and honest: Get all the bad news out as quickly as possible and do not try to “spin” bad news.
Leverage technology to engage constituencies directly and have IT redundancies in place: Have a ready-to-populate crisis microsite built out in advance of a crisis so that it can go live quickly with important information when a crisis happens; have backup processes in place for communicating with employees and other stakeholders should a natural disaster or other accident take network servers down; leverage Twitter for engaging constituencies and monitoring prevailing sentiments on situation.
Be accountable: Accept responsibility and provide next steps on how the company will remedy the immediate situation and help affected parties. Do not shift blame or stonewall.
Know when to seek expert help: Effective crisis management can prevent a bad situation from getting worse – and a poorly orchestrated response will do the opposite. Bring in outside crisis counsel with the experience and expertise to lessen the short- and long-term reputational damage. Don't allow the legal team alone to control the corporate response – they're solely focused on protecting your legal flank, not your brand.
Identify third parties to advocate on your behalf: Seek and provide credible, trusted third parties willing to engage reporters or provide supportive messaging.