How to handle crisis communications
Organisations around the world face uncertain times and are preparing to deal with challenges never seen before.
Among these activities, and possibly for the first time for many businesses, is implementing a crisis communications strategy to help instil confidence among various stakeholders, not least their own workforce, should it be required.
Indeed, in a rapidly changing environment, being prepared for all eventualities can pay dividends.
In essence, a crisis communications plan is a set of agreed guidelines for the business or organisation to use in an emergency or an unforeseen event for how, and what, it communicates both internally and externally.
Various steps are taken to protect reputations, whether that’s for individuals or businesses.
These can include:
- Decisive action. Time is of the essence given the rise, and domination, of social media and online news which is accessible to anyone with the click of a mouse. A lack of information, or a slow response, can create a void for rumours to circulate.
- Be open and honest. At this time more than any you will be under intense scrutiny. Hiding messages that will probably be uncovered at a later date, or even worse misrepresenting messages, could prove costly.
- Third party support. In a time of crisis, having supporters outside the organisation could be crucial as they provide assistance which is seen as more genuine and trustworthy.
- Team work. Having a fully prepared team in place to deal with public and media questions could help minimise any potential damage. At the helm of this team is one key spokesperson who is confident in their role and who will help maintain clarity of message.
- Don’t wait, prepare in advance. Crisis communications does not have to be reactionary. Preparing and having measures in place could drastically reduce the risk of reputational damage. It could even stop the unexpected event turning into a crisis and, in a best-case scenario, help turn a negative situation into a positive one.
- Put others first. Be genuine in your efforts to address the situation and if it requires a sincere apology then be prepared to do so…and mean it.
Crisis communications has many factors to it and the above are just a few key pointers. When handled effectively it has the potential to actually enhance the reputation of a business or organisation. When handled badly it can leave damage that is hard to repair.