There is an interesting phenomenon when people make their first reactions to the crisis-maybe they are over nervous, maybe they are quite panic, or maybe they don’t have time to think thoroughly-they are likely to deny the negative messages or use other information to cover up the fact.
For example, Tiger Woodz refused to cooperate with the police and deliberately avoided exposing the fact. Toyota concealed the incident to reduce the severity of the truth and tried to cover up the negative information. Both of them handled the crisis and did sound crisis communications by a series of statements, apologizes, and activities. However, the unacceptable denial at first really expanded the crisis and had bad impact on the first stage of crisis management.
So since we still have to reveal the fact in the end, why don’t we tell the truth at the beginning? One principle we should always keep in mind when dealing with a crisis is that as the news has been exposed, there is no need to hide the fact.
As the rapid development and wide usage of the Internet, once some news breaks, nothing can stop it from spreading to the whole world. When a crisis happens, people will get the information at first hour and make their judgment by their perception of the incident. As they have already caught one corner of the story, they have great curiosity and strong expectation to know the whole thing. So in this sense, it will be in vain if you keep silent or deny the news. The longer you cover the truth, the more various rumor will be produced by the public. As a result, the crisis will spread widely and things will be out of control, and this is absolutely not what you want it to be. Therefore, since you can not hide any more, why not lay it out to clarify yourself.
One thing that we have to deal with when we make our initial statement is the public’s emotional reaction. When people first access to the crisis news, for example, a celebrity’s scandal or a company’s product safety problem, they will be somehow pissed off and generate resistant psychology without personal judgment or thinking further. The damage and injury of the news will cause people to lose their cool for a while and be unfavorably disposed towards the defendants. Under this circumstance, you’d better be cautious with the content that you make the initial statement. To deny or cover up is absolutely impossible. You should not only tell people what is going on, but also show your sincerity and firmness. Besides, you should be consistent in the whole process of crisis communication. People can’t forgive those who promise and then deny in succession.
For public figures or celebrities, it is more important for them to stand up to admit the facts and tell the truth. Because people regard them as their idols or heroes, and they can’t allow their idols or heroes have any imperfection. Any little mistake can cause great response. If you express any concealment or false, the audiences will generate strong antagonistic psychology, leading to a lot of negative comments and negative publicity, which will again cause more negative response as butterfly effect.
So personally, I think the first reaction to a crisis for a celebrity is to hold a press to tell the fact, and if needed, make an apology with openness, accuracy and sincerity. Don’t deny, don’t hide and don’t drag out time. The reaction should be immediate and elaborately designed that make sure you have covered every tiny aspect and considered the feelings of the victims.
Beside Tiger, the Edison Chen photo sandal is also a good example. The crisis in involved the illegal distribution over the Internet of intimate and private photographs of Hong Kong actor Edison Chen with various women, most of them are celebrities. The scandal shook the Hong Kong entertainment industry and received high profile media attention locally and around the world. At first, Edison didn’t take the responsibility or make sincere apology. This angered the public, especially those actresses. Eventually, under strong pressure, he made a public apology, especially to the women involved, and also announced that he would “step away indefinitely” from the Hong Kong entertainment industry. Apparently, it is his improper reaction that causes the scandal world known and ruined his acting career.
There have been so many cases caution us to be frank when some disgraceful things are discovered. So here we go again, as the news has been exposed, there is no need to hide the fact.