Having a strong crisis communication plan is critical in preventing or lessening the damage a crisis may inflict on an organisation or business.
A crisis can’t always be prevented, but when handled the right way, an effective crisis communication plan can recover your business from even the most disastrous of situations, ensuring your company’s reputational damage is kept to a minimum. Failure to manage a crisis can seriously harm a business and its stakeholders, or worse, permanently end business operation.
PR practitioners are experts in knowing how to handle crisis communication. Crisis communication and public relations go hand in hand as PR practitioners work to either gain the trust of key publics for organisations and businesses and are the point of contact for communicating with external stakeholders and the public.
Our Communications Director Clare Christensen said planning crisis communication is imperative in ensuring business continuity.
“A business that is prepared and has a strong crisis communications plan will find they know what to do when a crisis hits, their roles and responsibilities and how they should communicate to keep everyone informed,” she said.
“Businesses that don’t have a team structure for crisis communication can find themselves fumbling through the problem, and sometimes making the situation worse.
“Have an action plan in place, a dedicated crisis team and run through worst-case scenarios, so should the real thing happen, you and your company know how to respond effectively.”
Crisis communication follows a 5-step timeline.
The first (and perhaps the most important) step in crisis communication is to plan for the worst. Organisations that predict a crisis before it happens are far more prepared for when disaster really strikes. This can be done by installing prevention methods such as brainstorming possible courses of action when a crisis strikes.
Crisis communication starts when the crisis at hand is detected. Having the crisis communications team on the receiving end of any information is imperative to prevent hasty reactions leading to inappropriate responses. It is also important at this stage to take responsibility for the crisis and start owning the conversation which surrounds it.
One of the most important factors in crisis management is to show the public the situation is not being ignored. Today, with social media causing news to travel fast, the positive reputation of a business can be lost in an instant. This is why it is important to stay accountable and be transparent.
This begins by acknowledging the incident, taking responsibility, being truthful, keeping the public updated and if required, delivering a genuine apology.
After the crisis has been detected and responsibility has been established, the next step is to keep the crisis contained. This calls on the crisis communication team to be clear about what their key message is, how they are going to respond, and when it is best to do so to ensure the crisis is being handled appropriately.
Good PR professionals will write a crisis communication press release to help with this stage and ensure the message is delivered far and wide.
Once the main course of action has been taken, the next step is to focus on gaining back the trust of the public. How this is done will be up to the organisation (and the crisis) specifically as they focus on who they are and what they want their public to know about them.
This is also a good time for the organisation to reflect on the situation and talk about what they have learned. Consider how effective the situation was handled and if the crisis communication plan should be altered in case of future events.