Jeff Hahn
Public Relations, Social PR Secrets

142: Jeff Hahn on Crisis Communication Secrets for Brands Small and Large

Jeff Hahn says your crisis communication plan can be the size of a credit card. What?  The biggest mistakes and errors happen in the time wasted in figuring out who does what. No crisis plan? That is your plan. 

Crisis management is a frequent marker on the agenda for Jeff Hahn who has spent 30 years as a Public Relations and Crisis Communications Expert. When a brand’s reputation is at risk, Jeff educates PR reps, marketers, and CEOs on how to successfully navigate any bad news break. 

In this new episode of the Social PR Secrets podcast, host Lisa Buyer sits down with crisis communication veteran and Principal at TexHahn Media, Jeff Hahn, where he reveals what to do when your company’s reputation is on the line. His Cassandra Calculator™ diagnostic, Reputation Dissonance™ models model is proven to transform frenzied, head-scratching executives into damage control professionals.

Prepare, Prepare and Prepare Some More

Financial, personnel, technological. These are several types of crises that your company may face in the future. If you have the mindset that ‘this could never happen to me,’ then you are already one step closer to making the

 #1 PR Mistake: Failing to assemble a Rapid Response Team.

In a steady atmosphere, where spaghetti hitting the fan is a distant scenario, you probably wouldn’t think that pre-determining where to meet and who to call during a high-stress situation is valuable. In reality, leaving these “trivial” boxes unchecked can very well make or break your brand. Ignorance is not bliss; it is harmful.

The Rapid Response Team: 5 Simple Steps

Jeff Hahn’s book, Breaking Bad News: 12 Essential Crisis Communication Tools, describes how to construct a Rapid Response Team and the method to implement when undergoing a crisis. 

His model makes a big promise: If brands effectively perform the five actions below, they will recover from any strenuous affair:

  1. Speed: Assembling a team in a timely manner is especially important in this rapidly-moving digital world.
  2. Speak Early but Ambiguously: Prepare a holding statement so your stakeholders know that you understand the severity, have examined the issues, and are making efforts to mitigate the situation.
  3. Message: Are you accepting blame or not?
  4. Messenger: Who is the spokesperson? Oftentimes, companies urge the CEO to issue an apology. Jeff says that this is one of the worst mistakes to make, as CEOs should solely be in management mode.
  5. Method of Outreach: Responding to a reporter with “no comment” is an example of having high control but low authenticity. On the flip side, speaking at a press conference is an example of having high authenticity but low control. This is an obsolete and outdated method that leaves your company vulnerable. Reporters are able to rampantly shout questions that you are unprepared for. All in all, it’s important for you to control the narrative through various methods of outreach. All 12 options are detailed in Jeff’s book, which is free for a limited time.

Controlling the Narrative

“If a brand can establish its own digital newsroom, it can control the narrative. That is a great and very effective method of maintaining both control and authenticity.” -Jeff Hahn

Lisa and Jeff both agree that since adding SEO and social media to the wheelhouse, brands and modern public relations pros can now act as the journalist rather than rely on them. This is a game-changing capability that can be accomplished by recruiting influencers to promote content, posting carefully crafted written/visual statements on digital platforms or using your degree like a swiss army knife (meaning to become an expert in more than one component of crisis PR management).

Jeff says that fewer than 1% of companies use influencers to control the narrative. While a powerful entity to introduce, you should never pull them into the crisis control crossfire. He advises steering away from assigning the influencer as the spokesperson but if that is your best and the only option, the Rapid Response Team should always be controlling the reins. Crisis communication is all about the fundamentals. Tell them what to say, how to say it, and of course, when to say it, too. 

Some Topics Discussed In This Episode Include:

  • The Craft of Crisis Communication
  • Risk Exposure is Overlooked
  • Rapid Response Team
  • The Dissonance Model
  • The 3 M’s
  • Digital Newsrooms
  • Mistakes to Avoid During a Crisis
  • Control v. Authenticity
  • Pros and Cons of Using Influencers During a Crisis
  • Paid Crisis Communication v. Organic Crisis Communication

Connect with Jeff Hahn

Links Mentioned


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