Whether it’s COVID-19 related or your business finds itself in crisis for another reason there are key crisis communication steps that help deliver a cohesive response.
During a time of crisis and uncertainty and especially tragedy, people need to know you care, that you understand and that you are trying to do everything you can to help or resolve what has happened.
It is in that initial period of ‘breaking news’ that you need to use every tool available to you and most often that will mean facing the media.
In a crisis time matters and the longer you take to respond the longer critics and others have time to fill the void. Don’t leave your staff, stakeholders, customers and community searching for answers or hearing second and third-hand information that more often than not is incorrect.
Crisis Communications is split in to two groups – internal and external.
Internally for staff and stakeholders EDMs and intranet messages must be a priority and depending on the severity personal phone calls and push SMS notifications.
Customer-facing communication must happen almost simultaneously and can be managed through social media, email and SMS where appropriate. It is now media outlets are updated.
Crisis Communication plans will, or should, include template holding statements. In a crisis it is critical a pre-selected and tested ‘Go Team’ is able to activate quickly and a chain of command followed to ensure communication is on message and delivered effectively.
Existing social media or promotional campaigns that could be interpreted as insensitive or inappropriate must be stopped.
An immediate review of all broader key messaging is essential or there is the risk of creating further brand damage and igniting a new media storm.
Executive teams are continuing to develop and refine COVID-19 response plans. In best case scenarios they started with a comprehensive Crisis Communications Plan that already provided them with a framework, chain of command and a cross-function ‘Go Team’. Others have, and are, starting from scratch and that create increased pressure.
It’s worth remembering that newsrooms and journalists are experts at responding to a crisis. They are fast, thorough and reports are instant.
Corporations, business leaders and charities must be agile and must be prepared.
Leisa Goddard is a journalist with 30 years experience in the Australian media and is founder and Managing Director of Adoni Media, a leading Australian crisis communication and PR firm. Leisa has been the journalist covering companies in crisis, now she and her team use their experience to prepare executives to manage their response and reputation.