Crisis communications, the part of any PR practitioner’s role that they hope they never have to do.
But, inevitably, it is going to happen. And whilst bad crisis management fuels the problems further, if handled well, a crisis could be the making of your company.
So, what counts as a crisis?
A negative comment on social media or an incorrect statement in the press might seem like a crisis, but often a crisis is something on a much larger scale. Think, Alton Towers’ rollercoaster crash or Malaysian Airlines plane disappearance. This is something that is going to become synonymous with your company and have a big impact.
The crisis communications management process starts long before the problem has arisen. So, anticipating potential crises and putting the foundations of a plan in places is essential for successful management.
Firstly, define the circumstances under which any risks might become a major event or crisis. Communications teams should be aware of these and monitoring potential issues.
Some of the crisis communications activity can be done ahead of time. Ask yourself the following questions to begin your crisis plan.
- Who should be informed during the crisis? Put a list of key stakeholders together in peacetime to ensure you’re efficient when a problem arises.
- Who will carry out your crisis strategy? Ensure that communications teams, clients and anyone involved is aware of what part they might have to play and that whoever will be leading the strategy is confident in doing so.
- Who will need to approve any reactive or proactive work? Let boards, business leaders and managers know your crisis strategy ahead of time, so you aren’t wasting time seeking approvals when things start to go wrong.
- Who will be your media spokesperson/people? Make these people aware of the role they will be expected to play and ensure that they are professional and comfortable on camera and in interview.
The first few hours of a major crisis are the most important, so prioritise and ensure that you use this time efficiently and wisely; with a strategy in place, you can maximise on this time. When you get it right, you can reduce potential impact and protect the company’s reputation.
During the crisis, there many things you should be doing. But always consider these key points throughout:
- Do not speculate. Be honest and only comment on or share information on things you know for fact.
- Never stop communicating. Even if you have nothing new to say, reassure audiences that you are continuing investigations or managing the problem and will keep them updated.
- Be consistent in all communication. Ensure your media spokesperson is sharing the same messages as your social media managers and team taking calls back in the office.
As a PR practitioner, putting a crisis communications strategy into action is something that is extremely challenging, but if the company or client is aware of the process it can alleviate many of the potential internal issues.
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