Keep calm and communicate: tips for crisis communications
While the topic of possible emergency scenarios will alarm any company’s leadership team, forming a crisis communications strategy doesn’t always rank highly on their list of priorities. But it should! Anything that can damage your reputation could have a significant impact on the wider business, whether that’s consumer confidence, share price or people wanting to work for you. Managing the communications side of a crisis is vital and could be the difference between success and failure.
Plan, Plan, Plan
In any crisis, speed is of the essence, both in operations decisions and in your communication. But making rational decisions in a time of stress is a challenge, so having a detailed plan and access to all the information you need will make the process much smoother and leave you more brain capacity to respond to the evolving situation.
You can’t prepare for every possible scenario, and even if you do, it’s likely that something you’d never even consider will happen instead. But being aware of potential issues is a great starting point, and making a plan with the capacity to adapt will hopefully allow an effective response whatever happens. A good starting point for preparing your plan is to gather your team and think of potential issues (both likely and more far-fetched), consider how they might affect the business and how effective communications can help to minimise any negative impact.
Who are you talking to?
Once you’ve thought of some potential issues, it’s time to think about your audiences. Who should you be communicating with and what do they need to know? Who is of highest priority and what channels will you use to reach them? This may vary depending on specific scenarios but it’s likely that your key audiences will be fairly consistent, as will the level of information they need and the best ways to reach out to them.
Who’s doing the talking?
Whoever is going to be communicating, they need to have had the appropriate training. There are plenty of examples on YouTube of bungled interviews that have made crises worse — we do not want that! Expert media training will help your leadership team understand the potential pitfalls and how best to avoid them. In high-profile crises, it’s likely a member of the senior leadership team will need to communicate. However, they will have many other responsibilities, so if there are other team members with the training and profile to communicate then it makes sense to utilise them where possible. Understanding whose responsibility it is too communicate with each audience in advance will help the process to run as smoothly as possible.
What will you say?
While who says it is important, arguably it’s what you say that matters. Recognise who is affected by the crisis and demonstrate your concern for them — in some cases this may include an apology. Demonstrate what actions you are taking, whether that’s clear steps or cooperating with an ongoing investigation; actions often speak louder than words. Most of all it’s important to reassure your audience that you understand the gravity of the situation and the impact it’s having on them. Preparing some pre-approved statements is useful to speed up the process in times of crisis.
So, how can Sciad help you?
Crisis communications can be pretty daunting, but you’re not on your own. Sciad can help you put together a detailed plan to make sure you’re as prepared as possible. Involving us early in the process will mean that if something does happen, we can be on hand to help quickly. It’s also important not to overlook the role of proactive reputation management in a crisis. If your stakeholders generally have a positive image of you as a result of your ongoing communications activities, they are more likely to view you favourably. Monitoring sentiment can even allow you to nip an emerging problem in the bud before it becomes a crisis.
For more information on how we can help your team with media training, crisis communications planning and ongoing communications programmes, contact Juliette Craggs by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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