Every business or organisation can be susceptible to a crisis. Crisis Communication is a vital tool in minimising damage to a company’s public image.
Effective crisis management cannot occur without quality communication. Being able to communicate in the right way during and after a crisis can determine the overall outcome of the situation and the impact on your company.
Be prepared and keep up to date. Create a crisis management plan (CMP) which details your Crisis Communications strategy. This should be checked annually to ensure all types of crises are planned for and media is up to date. If a crisis occurs, you won’t have time to start at the beginning.
In the CMP, think of all possible scenarios that may happen and write detailed media procedures. Will you issue a media release? Will you host a press conference? Will you send updates through social media?
Your company should designate a small crisis management team who can be called on if a situation arises. Be sure to include a communications specialist and spokesperson and have their contact details at the ready.
The most important thing when dealing with a crisis is to move quickly but calmly. Get to know your facts and work out where the threat is coming from.
Whether it’s from social media or news outlets, pin-pointing exactly where and what people are saying can make it easier to identify the situation and work out how to handle it.
Do not avoid the media – this just looks like you’ve got something to hide. Think about what message you want to deliver to the public and be consistent. Your messages should be humanised and respectful.
You may need to go out fighting or you may need to accept responsibility. Sometimes, it’s best to apologise. Look to your CMP for the best way to respond to different crises.
If you are indeed at fault, taking responsibility for the crisis and being forthcoming with what you plan to do, might be the best way to start rebuilding rapport with the public.
Spokespeople should be properly media trained so they know how to front journalists. They’ll learn what to say, what not to say and how to present themselves.
Assign the ‘right’ spokespeople to deliver your message to the media. Whether it’s the CEO, the PR specialist or the head of a department, use the person who knows about the situation and who shows credibility and confidence.
If a crisis does occur, be proactive and take control of the situation. This may include holding press conferences, writing media releases and undertaking interviews. While daunting, it is an opportunity to get your point of view out there.
Crisis Communication is crucial. You can’t ignore a crisis or the public and media scrutiny which may follow it.
It’s important to keep communication open with your stakeholders, the media and the public to minimise damage.