Crisis can occur at any stage. A good company reacts well to such an event; a great company already has a well-oiled plan in place. Regardless of a company’s size, effective communication during an unforeseen event is necessary to mitigate any fatalities, maintain reputation and manoeuvre the situation. A minute of action is worth 10 minutes of planning, but a plan MUST be put in place nonetheless. Without a robust plan in place, you will be left chasing your tail trying to advert further disaster.
Another perspective worth considering is that the way in which your company reacts to an event is essential to shaping public opinion (both by employees and external parties). A pitiful response can destroy a company’s image, whereas a strategic one can solidify trust, a sentiment well-encapsulated by Benjamin Franklin when he proclaimed, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
Life is unpredictable, business is even more unpredictable, but nonetheless a well-groomed crisis communication plan will mitigate unpredictable events and control the chaos that ensues off its back.
Here are 5 essential points to keep in mind when creating a crisis comms contingency plan:
Have The Right People In Charge
Make sure you train the right people and ensure that they are equipped to respond immediately. Another thing worth noting is that they must be able to handle stressful situations. The worst thing in a stressful situation is someone who responds emotionally rather than logically. The person in charge should set a precedent that seeps throughout the company hierarchy, from the executives at the top to the new starters at the bottom. Usually, this is a group of people rather than just one person. They have been well-trained in advance and have the necessary tools, contacts, software, etc. to hinder any further issues.
Proactive Over Reactive
Like I mentioned before, you must have a robust plan in place. Without it, you are heading for disaster. To do this, put yourself in the shoes of everyone that the disaster might affect from employees to journalists to stakeholders and so on. What information would they need, and in what order, given there is a crisis? What tools would be the most beneficial to them? One great way to do this is through the use of pre-prepared templates that can easily be adjusted from its basic form to many different ones depending on the specificity of the crisis. This will allow you to keep control of the message and most information regarding the event, rather than letting someone else run away with the narrative.
Internal Comms is Key
Your reputation is dependent on the reaction from the outside world as well as your employees. The last thing you would want is employees leaking classified information to their families and hence allowing it to spread like wildfire. This brings me to my next point. Have an internal comms plan in place to inform employees as to what they can and can’t do now that the crisis has taken place. This should centre around everything from health and safety to classified information and so on. However, this is the easy part. The hard part is actually communicating said information in a quick and easy-to-consume way to all employees; great ways of doing so include through an internal comms platform, email lists and online domains.
Don’t Fall Victim to Social Media
In the modern world, little else trumps social media. If you allow a false narrative to gain legs on social media then you risk serious reputational damage, regardless of whether said narrative is true or false. Make sure you get ahead of the story and post a PR-friendly, informative and honest statement on all social media channels. The world we live in now is unfortunately not dictated by truth anymore. It is dictated by who can deliver the information quickest, in a user friendly manner and to enough eyes so that it can imprinted in the public consciousness.
Update Your Website
The first thing people will do when they hear of the crisis is google your company and go to your website. They want to see what the issue is from the horse’s mouth. This is your time to shape the narrative. The first opinion they see will usually be the one they run with, unless something exceptional happens afterwards. Hence, make sure you update your website to communicate the event in a well-thought-out, calm and informative manner. Don’t let the narrative run away from you!