Protect your company’s reputation and preserve the trust of your customers by being prepared when difficult situations arise.

A crisis in real estate can occur because of poor market conditions, hampered cyber security, a natural disaster, and even threats to your reputation. But Davia Temin, CEO of Temin and Co., a crisis management firm, wants brokerage owners to know that when your business faces trouble, it’s an opportunity to exercise leadership.

Temin, who has served as a spokesperson for major organizations during crises over the last 20 years, shared some universal tips about how to respond to a business-oriented emergency during the 2017 REALTOR® Broker Summit in San Diego. “I try not to put lipstick on a pig,” she said. “Figure out what the situation is and what you can do within the bounds of the organization to address it in the right way.”

Assemble a crisis team. Your executive communications team might not necessarily think the most clearly in the midst of crisis, Temin said. You need your legal counsel, but you also need a tiered group of advisers. “Some people are more talented in this than others, and you want to make sure they’re on your team,” she said. Have a plan before a situation arises and prepare your team by playing out scenarios through role-play.

Deny denial. “This cannot be happening” is a common psychological response to difficult situations, Temin said. However, denial often escalates a critical situation, so start working on a fix immediately to rein in the severity of the crisis and mitigate the damage. Stay calm and deny your fight-or-flight instinct.

Figure out the right message for the situation. It doesn’t matter whether the circumstances surrounding a crisis are true or false; if people read something negative, it’s going to damage your reputation, Temin said. Your response should be to build a story about what the truth is instead of defending yourself against false accusations.

Provide a cross-channel response. In the wake of social media, it’s imperative that you respond to a crisis within 15 minutes. If the information doesn’t come from you, someone else is going to leak it—and perhaps introduce falsehoods into the storyline, she says. “Because of social media, nothing goes under the rug. People tweet, so you have to assume everything is going to be known,” Temin said. For example, in 2012, a family accused Progressive Insurance of siding against a customer who was killed by an alleged drunk driver so that the company wouldn’t have to pay on the terms of the young woman’s policy. Her brother took the fight to social media, and it went viral, Temin says, and Progressive had to deal with the blowback.

Stay in control. It’s always better to overcommunicate than undercommunicate. Temin coaches the CEO of a large bank with an overseas parent company. The company’s U.S. executives will convene a conference call at 2 a.m., put together bullet points about events they talked about by 3 a.m., and make sure a memo is distributed to every employee—from management to tellers—by 5 a.m.

“Never make a public denial when it’s a lie. Watch your karma and behavior, and if anything you do would make you come back as a cockroach in the next life, you can’t do it,” Temin said.


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