At Premo Consultants our team of crisis communications experts have worked inside government and with universities, law firms, energy companies, large corporations, and entrepreneurs to help with crisis management and incident response. We have seen firsthand how these tense and sensitive situations can play out, and what a difference it can make when an organization is prepared.
DO Have a Plan
The most important first step is to be prepared. Leadership should take the time to determine what are the most common crisis scenarios that the organization may encounter. An action plan AND a crisis communications plan should be created in response to these situations.
It’s important to think of all the possible crisis scenarios, and how the company’s response should vary for each. For example, the response to a security breach would be different from a natural disaster, which would be different from a personnel issue.
DO Create Key Messaging
During the planning phase, each company should create core messages that provide important information about the organization. These key messages should be reflected in all communication that comes from the company, especially during a crisis.
Try to create an exhaustive list of template message points for the crisis scenarios that you have planned for while drafting the crisis communications plan. Having these to reference during your incident response will save critical time and resources. A speedy, thoughtful response is critical.
Message points should report the facts, not assumptions, that are available to you at that time. They should be shared with all appropriate response personnel, and those who are not involved in the planned response should be reminded of their role or lack thereof. Too many companies have had to do damage control after a company representative spoke off message or out of turn.
DO React Quickly
You can be shocked, you can be dismayed, you can be scared – but you can’t be slow. Your organization should be viewed as the most accurate and timely source for information. If you aren’t giving out information, you will have created a “news vacuum” that someone else will fill. Especially in the age of social media, you must react quickly. Utilize your resources, such as the organization’s website, social media and relevant media outlets. Take control of the story as best as possible and be sure that your organization’s voice is heard. Having planned messaging prior to a crisis incident and identifying the key personnel to go to for information are critical steps in a prompt response.
DON’T Ignore or Be Rude to Media
The media is not the enemy. You have a message that you want to get across, and they are there to help you do that. Reporters and editors have a job to do and deadlines to meet, and you can either help them or make things harder. One of those options is more likely to lead to an unfavorable inclusion in their story. Our CEO’s recent podcast interview with Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Rich Lord, dives into the importance of giving your media your side of the story. Depending on the situation, the story is likely going to move forward with or without your company’s input. A proper crisis communications strategy helps to shape and control the narrative.
- Are we making significant progress toward our marketing objectives?
- Are we creating valuable content that is consistent and on brand?
- What content receives the most engagement?
- Are we reaching our target audiences?
- Did we consistently meet deadlines and adhere to post frequency?
- What could we be doing better?
- Overall, did we save stress, time, and labor we would’ve otherwise expended without the editorial calendar?
DO Be Transparent
Remember, your organization wants to be the go-to resource for accurate and updated information. Transparency gains trust. Trust from your clients and stakeholders, trust from the media, and trust from the public. Be forthright and honest. If you don’t know something, say so. If you don’t know the answer right away, just say “I’ll get back to you on that.” A response with some information is better than silence and the horrific “no comment”. Be clear on what you know, that you’re working on finding out more, and when you expect to have additional information.
DON’T Try to Mislead or Minimize
People can recognize blatant spinning or sugar coating. When initial communications attempt to hide information or place blame, you lose the confidence of your audience. A good reputation is something that can take a long time to rebuild. The public is more likely to forgive a mistake than to forgive deception. Make it clear that you know the severity of the situation, that your organization is taking it very seriously, and that the leadership is in control of the situation. This can be done in a way that doesn’t incite panic or communicate unnecessary distress.
DON’T Be Afraid to Be Human
So many companies prioritize sounding confident and fact-driven at the risk of sounding cold. Respect the sensitivity of the situation and take that into consideration when communicating your messaging or sharing a prepared statement. This can be an opportunity to connect with your audience and to show the human side of the organization. Show that you care about all those involved, not just about what’s best for the company. How the person speaking is dressed, where they chose to speak, the tone they take – these are all things that should be situation-specific and well thought out.
DO Reflect on What Went Well and What Needs Improved After
There has never been a crisis management response that was perfect. The company’s leadership should take a critical look at what worked well, what didn’t, where there was some confusion, suggestions for improvement. Then take these and apply them to the current crisis communications plan. Learn from the situation and adjust accordingly.
No need to wait until your organization is in a crisis to learn from others successes (and failures). Here are five successful crisis communication examples.
Are You Prepared for a Crisis?
One thing we know is that mid-crisis is not the time to be vetting PR agencies. By engaging with PR professionals during the crisis communications planning process, you’re in a better position if a crisis should strike, and you also have your go-to team lined up when time is of the essence. Premo Consultants’ team of PR experts are available to chat with you to see if a full crisis communications plan is needed for your organization, and how to get one started today.
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