One of the most important tips you can remember as a business is to ensure you have a crisis communication strategy in place before you need one.
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in an intense situation with literally no idea how you’re going to deal with, what you’re going to do both in the short and long-term, or what the next step is.
Countering this, a professional and successful business is always prepared for the worst.
While you can’t be ready for everything that comes your way in terms of context, you can certainly have a plan of what you’re going to do and what systems you can put in place to make sure your business handles the situation properly.
The term “crisis communication” refers to this plan, ensuring successful communication is present throughout your business during a crisis, both internally between your employees and management and externally with the public and media.
It is critical to have a crisis communication plan in place to ensure that your company or organisation can function even in the face of a disaster. A plan like this raises awareness, reduces the impact of the problem, and speeds up your ability to respond to the problem, and ensure it’s effective.
Although there are certainly some aspects you can prepare for, such as mass layoffs, it’s generally difficult to predict a crisis. However, you may always plan ahead for how you’ll communicate crisis information to internal and external stakeholders.
What is the Definition of Crisis Communication?
A crisis typically happens without warning, and they happen suddenly. Imagine lots of your staff going on strike, the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns, a product recall needing to take place, a PR disaster, and the sorts.
Having a plan means you can navigate the problems and the obstacles you come across. It gives you focus and a sense of direction.
However, they are more than that.
One of the most important advantages of a crisis communication plan is that it raises the level of awareness among all the people within your business.
Employees are more likely to be in sync with the company and pay greater attention to things that might potentially be devastating to the company if they take the time to analyse all of the risks it faces.
This is just another way of ensuring everyone is on the same page, and their focus is all proactive, trying to accomplish the same task, in this case, figuring out how to highlight and prevent problems.
That being said, a crisis cannot always be avoided, but it can be mitigated when using a crisis communication plan. Developing a crisis communication strategy will reveal your company’s weaknesses, allowing you to strengthen them before a problem arises.
Finally, having a communication plan will help you enhance your responses when the time arises. Rather than waiting until a crisis occurs to make a plan, developing a crisis communication strategy ahead of time can help you to respond quickly when one develops.
This means you’re prepared to face whatever comes your way and can take action, rather than letting it wash over you until you leave it too late.
It’s because of this that when a significant crisis occurs, it’s all too easy for a firm to become a victim. Instead of allowing criticism to fester and wreak havoc on your company, a crisis communication plan helps you to focus on your mission statement and move forward.
So, while the benefits are clear, it’s now time to think about how you can actually go about getting a communication action plan made up and in place within your business. That’s what we’re going to be focusing on for the rest of this guide.
- Prepare your staff ahead of time
Employees are not only affected by crisis situations; they are frequently the ones who have to pick up the pieces.
It’s true that employees react to crises in a variety of ways, according to one study, ranging from terrified and insecure to deceived and frustrated.
Either way, your employees will get affected, and it’s something you need to sort out fast. The worst thing that can happen is having some employees become demotivated, some leave the company, and many others beg you for answers to what’s going to happen next.
Make sure that everyone in the firm is aware of the company’s policies and procedures before a crisis happens. This will come with the plan, but for now, let them know you’re piecing something together and that you’re organised.
- Make a list of the people who will be in charge of crisis communications
Establish a senior management team that includes public relations and legal professionals. You can view these people as your ‘strike team’.
If you’re a smaller company or don’t have this kind of knowledge in-house, hire a crisis communications agency or an independent consultant. Identify and appoint a crisis communications team, regardless of your organisational structure. You need to know who’s in charge and who’s taking action.
- Educate your crisis communications team
While all employees should be aware of the company’s standards and procedures, essential leaders and communicators must know how to respond in certain situations.
Learning from others is one of the most effective methods to prepare for a crisis. This can be accomplished by creating case studies based on recent events within other companies in your industry, or indeed the business world.
Request that your crisis management team practise “what if it were us?” scenarios. It’s also crucial to prepare any potential spokespersons.
Even a natural public speaker needs to learn how to engage with the media and keep the company’s brand image intact amid a crisis. Brainstorm ideas of what could happen and ways you could move forward past the challenges,” shares Lisa Marie, a PR manager at State of writing and Essay Roo.
- Efficiency should not come at the expense of accuracy
Customers, employees, rivals, and the media can (and will) post stories and media articles on the occurrences within your business before your internal team is ready, regardless of whether or not those stories are factual or complete.
During a real-life situation, speed is key, but accuracy is crucial. If you’re in a hurry to “get something out there,” don’t post inaccurate information.
- Be truthful and do what you say you’re going to do
If you don’t know the truth yet, or if your company isn’t ready to respond with a detailed statement, let people know that this is the case. Don’t say everything is under control when it really isn’t.
“Inform stakeholders that the company is collecting data and developing a formal response. The legal counsel’s proposals must be weighed against the gravity of the crisis by spokespersons. If your spokesperson pledges a future statement, your organisation must follow through, regardless of what is said,” shares Nick Turner, a business writer at Boom Essays and Paper Fellows.
Promises that aren’t kept will simply add to the issue.
- Evaluate your response and come up with ways to improve it
At this point, you should have a plan in place of what could happen and some ideas of how you’re going to deal with these situations. This is your plan. Of course, remember that your plan isn’t set in stone. In fact, you must go back and reevaluate how you deal with things so you can ensure you’re dealing with them in the best possible way.
Ask questions like;
- Is your crisis communication strategy working?
- Is your company’s reputation intact as a result of your external communications?
- Was the entire strategy carried out correctly?
After you’ve determined what worked and what didn’t, think about how you might make the process better. Be sure to update everyone that you’ve updated the plan, communicate your changes, and set your business up for the best chances of success when it comes to tackling a crisis.
A lack of crisis communication planning can be a catastrophe and can literally end your business if not handled properly. This has happened to businesses in the past, and it will happen again, but you don’t want it to happen to you.
Create a crisis communications plan, educate all staff, identify and train your crisis communications team, don’t sacrifice accuracy for speed, be honest, and always improve your processes.
- How To Get Ahead in Advertising – 7 Actionable Tips
- The Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach
- 3 Ways Heart-Based Leadership Approach Can Change How You Lead