Preparing a Crisis Communication Strategy is More Important Than Ever
June 6, 2022
In our ever-connected world, companies and organizations must be prepared to deal with a wide variety of potential risks to their operations, brand and/or market share. For example, a reputation-damaging post, tweet or message can quickly impact an organization in a number of different ways. Likewise, unfortunate events or misconstrued comments can find their way to local media outlets and be widely shared before you have an opportunity to respond, let alone fully understand what has transpired.
In crises like these and others (i.e., theft, fire, natural disaster, lawsuit, etc.), leaders need to consult and follow a well-constructed communication plan in order to reduce the amount of time between the beginning of a crisis and sharing your organization’s message.
Consider the following steps as your team seeks positive outcomes in the midst of a crisis:
1. PLAN AHEAD
While many crises are unforeseen, some can be anticipated. Consider your industry and varied audiences to determine what, if any, potential crises might look like. From there, identify key team members who should be involved in the development of internal and/or external communications, along with whose insight would be valued during crisis-related discussions. By having a pre-determined roster of key crisis players at the ready as a part of your crisis response team, valuable time can now be spent dealing with the situation and executing decisions, as opposed to taking time to figure out who should be involved.
2. DETERMINE COMPANY POLICIES
Do we or don’t we say anything? This is the million-dollar question throughout many crisis situations. Before you find yourself in a crisis, consult your organization’s leaders and engage in the philosophical discussions regarding the need to communicate. This will provide you with guideposts and a strategy ahead of time, while also setting precedents for future situations.
3. ASSIGN RESPONSIBILITIES
A crisis is underway, your team is assembled, you know what needs to be done based on prior planning … but now what? Make sure each member of your crisis response team has clearly defined roles and expectations. Who creates internal emails? Who distributes external messages? Who responds to media inquiries? Who is the public spokesperson? Informed and properly prepared team members will be able to move swiftly, work more efficiently and meet expectations.
4. SEEK OUTSIDE COUNSEL
Sometimes, outside expertise can provide the perspective, guidance and deliverables you need to navigate a crisis effectively and positively. Outside counsel can also help you identify and see things in a different light, while also providing objective, critical feedback on what others might be seeing (or hearing). In short, having a team of skilled communicators assisting you in a time of need can be a great benefit.
5. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Having a plan and policies in place is good, as is making sure key people are well-prepared to do the necessary work when a crisis arises. One way to ensure this is to practice. Make sure it is something you do annually. Work through “what if” scenarios with your team and make sure everyone understands what to do and when to do it based upon the crisis situation.
By Mark Yontz & Kelsey Ritchey