It's optimistic to hope you'll never experience a crisis, sometimes it's unavoidable – so it’s important to prepare. Managing a crisis isn’t easy, but there are certain elements that every business needs to acknowledge, to help shape and communicate an effective response.
Below are the most important things to consider when putting together your crisis communications strategy.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Arguably the most important step in any crisis communication strategy is planning and preparation. While it’s true that no two crises are the same, there are enough overlapping similarities for you to group them together and develop strategies to prepare for almost any situation. You can start this process by performing a general risk assessment to identify:
- Any possible threats to your organisation
- What functions are critical to the running of your business
- The resources needed to protect those functions in the event of a crisis
You can build upon this to form the appropriate plan. This will include details on crisis team roles, escalation response, your incident management checklist, templates, and guidance for any tools or software that you currently use. The best plans will cater to specific scenarios that will help guide your team's initial communications response.
Don't forget to make all your staff aware of the plan. Be sure they understand what you intend to do and the processes to follow if they have any questions, concerns, or issues. This ensures everyone is on the same page, helping to avoid confusion and any unnecessary headaches caused by miscommunication.
Building Your Team & Identifying Roles
Having a plan is great, but if you haven't got a team to effectively implement it, you're back to square one. Establishing a dedicated team to work through any potential issues is an essential part of your complete strategy and should be one of your top priorities.
Your crisis team will be comprised of a wide range of people from departments across your organisation. This includes staff from HR, accounting, marketing, legal counsel, and any other heads of department that you think will be useful. Your lineup will differ depending on your business, but it's always best to be as diverse as possible. That way, when a crisis hits, the most suitable person can take command and start developing a response.
Take time to hold regular meetings, train your team, practise, and perfect your crisis procedures – so you can act with confidence when faced with the real thing.
Get Your Notification Systems in Place
How will you notify staff or shareholders if a crisis occurs? What channels will you use to address the issue to customers? In the past, we'd have to rely on outdated means of communication, like fax or a dedicated landline. Today, it's a very different story. We have access to countless methods of communication, bringing a whole host of ways to inform, engage, and reassure during a crisis.
With crisis communication software, you can inform stakeholders, warn staff, or contact anyone affected by a crisis much quicker.
A crucial part of any crisis communication strategy is ensuring you have the appropriate notification and monitoring systems in place. These will allow you to communicate information, updates, and messages to the appropriate people. Plus, they can keep track of responses and replies automatically. If these systems are set up in advance, you can save time and ensure your messages go through without a hitch.
Act Swiftly, Without Delay
This is another essential element in mitigating damage during a crisis and gaining control as quickly as possible. To get a handle on the situation, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your communication channels and be ready to respond at all times. It’s worth starting with a statement to let people know that you’re conscious of an issue and that you’re taking the appropriate steps to resolve it.
If you’ve prepared a plan to combat the situation, start to roll it out as soon as you can. Remember to make your shareholders and customers aware, and provide them with solutions to alleviate any concerns they might have.
People must see you’re acting quickly and with compassion. Employees, press, and customers need to hear the facts from you first. If you hold off for too long, the narrative will already have been written – putting you immediately on the back foot.
Make the Most of a Bad Situation
Regardless of the issue, if you communicate effectively, you can mitigate the damage and even improve brand confidence. Offer genuine solutions, maintain clear, consistent communication, and problem solve as much as you can.
All businesses will go through a crisis sooner or later, but it's only the ones that are prepared that will come out stronger.
Is your organisation fully-prepared for a crisis? Take our free incident preparedness test to find out.