Businesses big and small experience crises, which have the potential to seriously harm a company’s reputation if not managed correctly.
A crisis will usually arise quickly, and trigger confusion and uncertainty. How an organisation manages a crisis, particularly on short notice, can make or break its reputation.
Accordingly. a crisis communication plan or strategy is essential for businesses to mitigate any potential impact. As the old saying goes, to fail to plan is to plan to fail.
Crisis communication refers to the processes used by businesses which enable them to effectively communicate to staff, stakeholders and the public during a crisis situation.
An example of situations that may require a crisis communication strategy include:
Creating a crisis communication plan can help with organising how to put the company or individual’s views forward, determining the most effective ways to update the public on how the crisis is being managed, and working out the best way to rebuild reputation.
A plan’s objectives should be to manage the issue with speed and accuracy, to ensure more damage is not done.
When developing a crisis communication plan, there are three key elements to keep in mind: knowledge, speed and responsibility.
Crisis communication case studies show us that the rumour mill is one of the most effective fuels during a crisis. By providing frequent and correct knowledge, there is less room for people to negatively speculate.
Speed is critical – the faster a business can accurately respond to a situation, the less opportunity there is for the crisis to get out of hand.
The last box on a crisis communication checklist is responsibility. History shows that businesses benefit from taking responsibility of a situation, ensuring senior management is visible throughout the crisis, and being transparent about how the crisis will be prevented from happening again.
An essential part of delivering an effective crisis communication plan is to ensure all members of the business are across its content, especially executives.
Multinational oil and gas company BP learned this the hard way after one of their oil rigs exploded, resulting in the biggest oil spill in US history. Eleven workers were killed, and the Gulf of Mexico was severely contaminated.
In an interview after the incident, CEO Tony Hayward said, “there’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I’d like my life back”. He was later spotted yachting in the Isle of Wight while the clean up continued.
This caused mass outrage, forcing Hayward to step down from his position. US Chief of Staff at the time, Rahm Emanuel, condemned Hayward for “a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes”.
Had the appropriate communication plan been followed, such a gaffe could have been avoided.
Does your business have a crisis communication plan in place?