Utah CEO Magazine - Warning: Crisis Ahead
Managing a disaster can be more important than avoiding one.
by Rod Anderson, SNG PR
It would be nice to have warning of a crisis so we could know just when and how it would hit. The reality is that a crisis can occur in your business at any time, and it’s never convenient. Once a crisis hits and customers and media are calling, it’s too late for planning. But those first few hours and days can be absolutely critical in developing trust and managing perception that can continue on well after the actual crisis is resolved. Because of all this, the crisis planning needs to happen before your business and your reputation are in danger and it’s time to act.
A crisis can be messy and can unfold at such a rapid pace that a careful and crafted response becomes difficult. How the company communicates to its key audiences and with the media will determine the effects of the crisis. If handled well, a crisis response can actually enhance reputation and spur some needed dialogue and change.
At a minimum, a crisis communication plan should outline everyone’s responsibilities with a step-by-step approach to communicating to employees, their families, customers, the media, shareholders and any other key audiences for the company. This will help the company deal with the issue at hand and minimize loss and downtime.
Other items to consider include:
Identify some potential crises that could impact your business and address them in your plan.
Appoint a crisis communications team comprised of representatives from all departments so efforts are coordinated.
Identify who is responsible for the messages and who is authorized to speak to the press. Establish a hierarchy in case the primary spokesperson is not available and make sure proper media training occurs beforehand.
Don’t wait until a crisis erupts to develop key media relationships. It’s easier for the media and customers to trust you when you have a proven track record built over time.
Practice your plan. Hold drills internally so employees know what to expect and how to handle calls.
Don’t avoid the media. Tell your side of the story and communicate key messages. If you don’t comment, the media will get information from other sources.
Communicate your desire to resolve the crisis to all audiences.
Ensure a positive attitude. Have a spokesperson who can connect with people and can build your public reputation.
These are just a few things to consider in developing a plan. Work with your PR agency and/or internal communications team to put together a comprehensive plan specific to your company. No matter the size of your organization, a crisis can hit at anytime. Be prepared and develop a plan now, so you can come out ahead.