We received a call early one morning last year from a company that was in the midst of a serious crisis. News of the incident broke during the prior hour and company executives were being inundated with media calls as they scrambled to determine the best way to respond. We provided the prospective client with some initial counsel, assembled our internal team and began preparations to divide and conquer while waiting for our controller to finalize a work agreement.
Over the next 90 minutes, we were unsuccessful in connecting with the company. When we finally reached our contact, he informed us they had hired an attorney who had crisis communication experience and, as a result, were no longer in need of our services. We explained the challenges and risk of this approach to no avail.
The company issued a statement that was peppered with legal jargon approximately three hours later—nearly six hours after the news broke regarding the incident. Shortly thereafter, a government investigation was announced, and part of the company’s operation was shut down by the end of the day.
While there is a myriad of lessons that can be gleaned from this experience (the consequences from a lack of crisis planning, the pitfalls of communicating exclusively through the media, the perils of statements written by and media response executed by lawyers, etc.), one of the most prominent is the need for a fast and efficient response.
A group of professors at NYU researched and developed the Golden Hour of Crisis Response, which demonstrates that the longer it takes to respond after an issue or incident becomes public, the greater the damage. They found that after the first 45 minutes of news breaking, the damage to your business and its reputation increases exponentially in every hour that passes.
The unfortunate outcome for our prospective client validates this principle. Having the ability and/or resources to respond quickly is worth its weight in gold.