Planning begins before a crisis hits.
The unexpected can happen to any company at any time. In a flash you can lose public confidence, and getting it back takes time. One of the most predictable aspects of crisis communications is how unpredictable the scenarios can be. In many cases, you can’t make this stuff up. Over the years we’ve dealt with:
- Charges of sexual harassment
- Insider trading allegations
- Controversial approval process for a real estate project
- Accusations of mismanagement by members of a management team
- Carbon monoxide poisoning and death at a housing project
So if something happens at your organization and you find your world tipping and sliding from your control, what do you do? You start by asking for help from a crisis communications team.
FOCUS ON YOUR AUDIENCE
When facing a crisis, our advice is to keep your message simple, repeat it often, and put your employees and internal audiences first. In our statements, communications and actions, we want our audiences to know:
- We care
- We are listening
- We are doing something
- We will prevent recurrence
- We are accountable and responsible
- We will be part of the solution
The trust between you and your team is essential to success. Leaders must understand how their leadership style during a crisis affects employees, since important audiences, including customers, will be watching closely. Competitors will be watching, too. (And taking screenshots.) It is important to remember that how you respond as a leader and make others feel during a difficult period will last well beyond the current crisis.
In addition to focusing on your audience, other key crisis management strategies include being prepared, responding rapidly, controlling the information and engaging support from third parties.
What can you do today, when you don’t have a problem? Develop a crisis communications plan and map out those critical relationships now—not when you need them.
In developing your crisis PR plan, a PR team like C-360 can help you anticipate issues before they occur, prioritize vulnerabilities, and develop core messages and materials such as template media statements. Crisis teams can also help you prepare spokespeople, enlist supporters and monitor emerging issues.
While some crisis communications teams advocate for scenario-based plans, we recommend establishing a hierarchy of crisis levels so you can adapt the situation at hand and not hunt for an obscure example that might not be in your plan.
It’s also a good idea to have an ongoing PR program in place so you can build goodwill while things are relatively calm. That way, when the spotlight is focused on something not so good, the positive reputation you built over time could cause audiences to give you the benefit of the doubt.
WE CAN HELP
The C-360 PR team has decades of experience helping clients pick up the pieces and communicate clearly as they navigate tricky issues, and we are here to help you before, during and after a crisis. With some planning and strategy, you can weather almost any storm.