Not so long ago, word-of-mouth and media coverage used to be the common channels for crisis communication. With the explosion of digital technologies and social media as essential business communications channels, expectations have changed.
Today, customers and stakeholders alike expect transparency and immediate responses — snail mail and phone calls simply doesn’t cut it in a world dominated by Google, Twitter and Facebook, IG, YouTube, etc. Information – whether positive or negative — spreads faster than companies can create and disseminate it. In a crisis situation, it’s important for companies to be proactive and prepared for when a real crisis occurs.
Emotions invariably play a central role in any crisis event – and fear is often what is behind every crisis. In these situations, fear is in essence the kindling effect – all it does is feed the fire of a crisis situation.
While crisis events can be tense and emotional times, it’s essential to remember to address the issue head on (to the extent you can legally) and resist the temptation to avoid it whenever possible. Remember to show your emotions and be sincere – your audience will be more likely to empathize with you and appropriate displays of emotion will humanize your business.
Having a strong offense is the best way to prepare for any crisis. How do you prepare?
It’s important to be able to identify when something is a crisis and when it is NOT. Know the different phases of a crisis and how to respond in each phase to effectively prepare for a crisis situation. People can actually make things worse when responding to something when it is not a “real crisis”. One of the best ways to start is by creating levels for different types of crisis situations and appropriate responses for each.
It’s important to have a crisis communications team in place before you are in an actual crisis situation. Identify who needs to be part of the team and make them aware of this additional role and your expectations of them if and when their participation in the crisis team is necessary. Some key questions to ask yourself as you assemble a crisis team:
In most situations, the crisis communications team is composed of individuals from the C-Suite (CEO, COO, CFO, CCO, CMO, etc.), along with select individuals from the marketing/PR team, legal team and investor relations/Board of Directors. Depending on your business and industry, you may want to include individuals from other departments, such as sales, product, operations, R&D or HR. Regardless of who you choose to include on your crisis team, the most important thing is to involve them before a crisis strikes.
During a crisis situation, it is more important than ever to bring your “A” game. You want to make sure you deliver a consistent message time and time again, with similar messaging for internal and external audiences. If you put out different messages, it can negatively impact your credibility and raise suspicions.
Once you have your messages, make sure to identify who needs to receive it: who are your key audiences? What medium(s) will you use to communicate (written, in-person, video, etc.)? Is it multi-lingual? It’s important to answer these questions before a crisis strikes and include them as part of a clear and concise response plan. Remember to document your internal and external audiences, as well as the optimal channels to reach them. When a crisis situation strikes, quickly respond using the above tactics and your selected communication channel(s).
While crisis situations are incredibly stressful and difficult times, they also provide an incredible opportunity to connect with your target audiences in a brand-centric way. Your target audience wants to hear from you and the way you handle the situation will play a major role in determining how you come out of it.
At Warschawski, our clients are our #1 top priority. We work with you to effectively create a crisis communication plan before it happens to mitigate risks and challenges that may arise throughout the life of your business. Contact us! We are here to help.