Crisis. The word sends a shudder of panic in PR teams across the world. No matter how big your organization is, how many storms it has weathered and how successful you have become, your crisis communication depends heavily on a number of factors. Your readiness. Timeliness. And most importantly your approach towards a crisis.
This is a serious topic and one that can’t possibly be covered in just one post. But one of our readers recently asked us to post on crisis communication. And so here I am, trying to cover some basics around crisis management.
Yes, crisis is scary for an organization. And yes, you need specialists in the company to handle these crisis situations. But it can be done and you can get through this without negative press too. It is possible but it depends on how you manage the situation.
There is no right or wrong way to handle a crisis. There is a way that works. Others just don’t.
When a crisis happens, communication becomes important. Communication with customers – stakeholders – employees – investors and media at large.
So the idea is to address a crisis head-on, without making room for tomorrows and lets-see-how-this-goes statements.
Your first priority should be to have a crisis board in your organization — a cross-functional team that can get you all the numbers, information, possible outcomes and ideas for the next steps. Develop your crisis committee and make sure you have all the information together before you make a strategic decision to move forward.
Choose your spokespersons wisely. Train them. If your spokesperson has had multiple conversations with the media and the reporter is still hunting for information then just admit it. Your spokesperson does not know what to do.
Your training for spokespersons must be designed for all kinds of crisis scenarios. I will share a post on how you can train your spokespersons separately.
For now, let us focus on the problem at hand. You have a crisis. Your crisis committee is engaged but communication has not begun yet.
Develop a multi pronged communication plan to go out on all your channels. Make use of SMS, social media and influential blogs — if your business does not have any of its own, get in touch with associates, partners and anyone else whose blogs are widely read and can help you get your point across.
Internally, if you have an employee portal, put up an article, a statement from an executive and if possible call a town hall. Inclusion of your teams will ensure that your crisis is being managed not just by you but by all your ambassadors in the company and trust me when I say this: Employees are your most vital ambassadors.
Develop a statement right away for the media. Time is of essence. This should all be going on simultaneously which means your HR, PR, sales and marketing, operational functions, customer care and executives are working together to address the situation.
If you believe that more communication is required, (taking into account the nature of the crisis) — call a press conference. Explain your point of view and stick to your key messages. Key messages for crisis communication are like the meat in a sandwich. You and media are the bread. Meat is the message. So get your key messages together before your start communicating. And do it quickly.
Focus on business continuity. Your business operations must not suffer. This means keeping everything as is. If you are fighting a crisis while your service is out-of-order, that is not good. Business continuity and recovering from a crisis are closely linked. Media looks upon business as an ongoing entity. So keep your reputation intact by managing all ends. Make the business look good.
For many organizations in Pakistan, crisis communication equals laying low. However every business is different and every crisis is unique. Sometimes a crisis needs to be addressed. At other times, you need to mitigate your risks.
Proactive crisis communication is not always the answer. But if you are a commercial business, remember that media is the watch dog. In today’s world, business news blogs are also part of the media so make sure you are including blogging stakeholders in your crisis communication. For commercial business ventures, a crisis communication policy would be helpful. For non-profits, donor organizations and development companies, social media crisis management might just be the answer.
For most businesses, communication in the face of a crisis begins too late and on a weak footing. It’s important to be ready for a crisis. Which means having specialized advisory, expertise and training available in the company.
Do consider that your social media channels are a big support in reaching out to your customers and target audience. Engage. Share. Inform. Communicate key messages. And manage your crisis.
*Tip: It is best to develop a crisis communication policy within the organization and refer to the crisis communication committee whenever a situation arises.
We will be sharing more on this topic in the future. For now, take a look at this infographic that talks about social media as a tool for crisis communication in the development sector. It shares some interesting examples on how disaster communication has been managed through social media and how effective it has been.
Do share with us, how you believe a crisis should be handled in your organization. We’d love to hear your experiences and insights on this vast topic. Meanwhile, have a great day!
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