Last week’s ACI conference included a great session on crisis management. David Hermann from the GMA gave a presentation on “Effective Crisis Leadership: 5 Basic Rules You Learned as a Kid.” His presentation reflected a proactive approach and showed ways to build an effective crisis-management plan. Mr. Hermann’s points were as follows:

1. Clean up your mess.

– Take action and assume control of the situation.
– Mitigate your damages.
– Hire independent investigators if needed.
– Respond to the emotional needs of the public.

2. Share.

– Get the facts out before the rumors start.
– Cooperate with regulatory authorities.

3. Tell the truth.

-Honesty is not just the BEST policy, it’s the ONLY policy.

4. Apologize.

– Accept responsibility.
– An apology is not necessarily synonymous with liability.

5. Keep your hands to yourself.

– Resist the urge to “hit back.”
– Blaming others is not conducive to crisis closure.

Who should lead a crisis-management team was another interesting part of the discussion. Several in-house lawyers thought that the CEO should not take the helm. They believed that the team should be headed by another executive, such as the VP, because the CEO may not be as fully immersed and familiar with the product and also has other ongoing responsibilities that will reduce his or her focus on the crisis.