a16z Podcast: Crisis Communications

A crisis is an opportunity to change one’s culture, to model scenarios and set up a crisis plan/process, to become a better company. But it’s also a bit like therapy, from the act of asking probing questions to get at the facts … to dealing with emotions and conflicting agendas.

In this hallway-style conversation with a16z’s Margit Wennmachers and Kim Milosevich — who previously shared the why, how, and when of public relations — we (with Sonal Chokshi) explore the process and mindsets behind the outcomes of a crisis in lieu of specific examples. Because it’s something that seems so obvious to those who are on the inside (but even then it’s really not!), yet is actually a bit of a “black box” to founders and others who aren’t familiar with crisis comms 101.

What constitutes a crisis? Can someone inside a company “call it” early and prevent a crisis from becoming a bigger deal? How do you respond when there’s a lag or too much time between acknowledging the issue and finding out all the facts? Who should be in the (war) room where it happens? Should you share the off-the-record background story with reporters? How do you know when a crisis begins and ends — or that you’re ready for a “comeback” story? We explore all this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast. One thing’s for sure though: It may seem like a public relations or media problem — but it’s really a business problem, and is often tied to internal culture and values. So how to make that an opportunity (without being opportunistic about it)?