Posted By Jeff Cornin September 15, 2016

American gymnast and Olympic champion Simone Biles has shown that she – and the PR machine behind her – deserves a gold medal for crisis management, too.

On Sept. 13, several prominent athletes were revealed as having received exemptions for substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency after hackers got into its database. The story could have gotten out of control very quickly. The work that she put into training for her gold medal performance in Rio de Janeiro this summer could have been judged and questioned and her legacy as one of our country’s great athletes could have been marred.

But Biles struck first. By mid-afternoon on the day the news broke, she tweeted out to her 809,000 followers that the medicine she is taking is for her ADHD.

The message was perfect – golden, if you will.

Biles confirms that she is taking the medicine that was released in her records; there’s no arguing with facts. She then speaks to the broader issue of doping in sports and how important clean competition has always been to her.

With a simple tweet, Biles was able to completely deflect any and all criticism that might have come her way and then changed the nature of the conversation so that she appears to be a champion of fair competition. In just a few words, she showcased two of the most important tactics in crisis communications – getting ahead of the story and bridging.

When you go out with your message first, you control the narrative, not the reporters who come calling with questions. That avoids a situation in which you could come off as defensive and not believable to your audience.

And then she bridged the conversation. This is a tried and true tactic of media relations in which the focus of media attention segues gracefully into a new subject. Done successfully, you’ll end up showcasing the core message points that you want to ensure get to your audience.

In Biles’s case, the conversation becomes about fair athletic competition. She followed up with her initial tweet with a second one that bridges the conversation again.

And with another 140 characters, Biles becomes the poster child for living with ADHD and solidifies her standing as a role model to young girls and everyone who suffers from this illness.

We’ve forgotten all about the hackers and the drugs and can only picture Biles atop the medal platform now.

Not too shabby for a couple of tweets.

Biles made sure to retweet the support that flowed her way in the hours that followed, a tactic that promotes her message with third-party validation – especially when it’s from Tony-winning actress Cynthia Ervo.

Look to this small example as the epitome of good crisis communications. Getting ahead of the story gives you the power to control the conversation and make it go away more quickly.

Smart planning and messaging can vault your crisis plan to a new level.