Who needs crisis management?
The question should not be “if an organization will face a crisis”, but when. The odds make it inevitable that most organizations are going to face a crisis at some point. The impact or degree of the crisis comes down to how well the organization handles the crisis when it hits.
Just think of the many different places a crisis can come from:
- Employee disputes can quickly escalate to one of the parties posting details of the dispute publicly on social media
- A disgruntled employee can post false statements online and wrongfully accuse an organization of misconduct
- A security breach of the company’s computer system and theft of passwords or client information
- A company’s website could be attacked by hackers
- Violence or terrorism could directly impact an organization
- A natural disaster could directly impact the organization or its stakeholders
- A competitor, customer or vendor might get embroiled in a crisis which ends up dragging your organization into a crisis
- To name but a few!
What is crisis management?
Crisis management is defined as the application of strategies designed to help an organization deal with a sudden and significant negative event.
“The secret of crisis management is not good vs. bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.” – Andy Gilman
No one can plan 100% for every eventuality in the case of a crisis. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk when a crisis hits:
- Be aware of the common pitfalls to avoid during a crisis
- Be prepared on how to communicate with stakeholders and the press during a crisis
When and what the crisis turns out to be, is out of your hands. How you deal with it, is up to you.
Here are 7 important steps to keep in mind during a crisis:
1. Follow your Crisis Communications Plan
Following a plan will ensure the communications team can get in front of a crisis as quickly as possible.
2. Do not be Mute
When a crisis occurs there are usually a lot of people asking a lot of questions. Ignoring them could send the message that the company is either not aware of the issue or do not care enough to keep their audiences informed. If you are not yet sure of the facts, say so with a promise of sharing more information as it becomes available.
3. Prepare spokespeople before they face the press
Company spokespeople should be well prepared in delivering a clear message while steering away from speculation and unverified facts.
4. Be conscious of local cultures
Keep in mind that audiences likely come from different walks of life, so be careful in the use of phrases or words that might alienate any during a crisis.
5. Do not treat the press as the enemy
The press serves as a vital conduit for getting the company’s message to the target audience. This is especially true during a crisis. Now is not the time to alienate the press. There is likely already a lot of confusion and speculation during a crisis so we need to act as quickly as possible to respond to press inquiries.
6. Acknowledge feelings
Emotions can run high during a crisis. This is often fueled by uncertainty and lack of information. Recognize the frustration, fears, and concerns of those affected and show compassion and understanding for their situation.
7. Stay Alert
Stay alert once things start to cool down. Be aware that a crisis could flare up even when it seems all the fires have been put out. Stay alert and continue to monitor the press for any additional issues that might need a proactive response.
Additional steps for successful crisis communications:
- It is important to take ownership when you (or the company) have made a mistake
- Along with the Press/ Media ensure that your stakeholders and employees are informed about any statements/messages shared with the press
- Monitor all online platforms and conversations to gauge the kind of information that is being published and to be aware of the sentiment of the audience
- Train everyone in the company on a standard response
- Verify facts
Download our Infographic showing these important communication steps to follow during a crisis
Hopefully, these tips come in useful the next time you are facing a communications crisis.
What other tips would you add to this list?