As a business, you undoubtedly appreciate having your achievements showcased in public. It drives awareness, public and customer trust and engagement and, ultimately, growth in the sales or uptake of your product or services. Unfortunately, things do not always go to plan and there may come a point when your business or organisation could be in the limelight but for all the wrong reasons.
Take the pandemic, for example. Was your business expecting to be thrust into the middle of a global pandemic? According to the Global Crisis Survey 2021 by PWC, 62% of businesses had a crisis management plan in place. That means that 38% of businesses had to manage the crisis on the hoof.
No matter what kind of business or organisation you are, you need to know what to do when things go wrong. You not only need a crisis management plan in place as part of your business planning procedures, but you also need a clear crisis communication plan too. While it’s imperative to know how to deal with a crisis, you need a strategy to convey accurate facts and data to specific groups, and possibly the public, during such a situation to prevent or minimise any potential negative publicity that could adversely affect your brand.
What is Crisis Management?
Crisis management is the process used to deal with an adverse situation that has the potential to seriously damage or undermine your company’s reputation, sales, and growth. The crisis could be anything from a defective product to a sexual abuse allegation to a natural disaster. A crisis management strategy enables you to respond quickly to minimise damage and put your company in the best position possible to recover once the crisis has passed. For a successful outcome, you need to know what to say and when – time is of the essence when a crisis occurs.
What is a Crisis Communication Plan?
A crisis communication plan is drawn up to ensure a speedy response, clear thinking, and inclusiveness when a crisis strikes. It’s used in conjunction with a disaster plan to mitigate the damages that can arise from the situation and focuses on the ways you can present the situation in the best possible light. It gives you time to think through what you need to do in a particular crisis and frees up time to handle the crisis as it happens.
A crisis communication plan should include:
Designated spokesperson or spokespeople together with the people who shouldn’t comment
People who should be involved in the process and who shouldn’t
Internal and external people or stakeholders who need to be kept informed
Contact details for reaching critical people 24/7
Materials containing basic information about your company that you can issue to the media.
Creating an Effective Crisis Communications Plan
Having a well thought out crisis communications plan will be invaluable for dealing with a crisis. We’ve listed above some of the things that need to be in the plan, but there are other preparations that you can make to ensure that you have the best chance of meeting any negative situation head-on.
Responding quickly during a crisis will help to keep the rumour mill from escalating. Prepare materials that cover basic information about your company’s background, mission and products or services and be sure to update them regularly. Generic statements expressing concern and commitment to resolving the situation will also give you breathing space while allowing a speedy response. You may even want to go one step further and create specific responses to the crises that you think are most likely to affect your business.
Once you have identified who will speak on behalf of your organisation, arrange media training so they feel confident in handling communication with stakeholders. You’ll also want to identify your stakeholders as they will be your target audience. These could include the media, community groups, customers or service users, investors and sponsors, business groups and the government.
You’ll also need to decide who needs to know and what they need to know as well as timings. Not everyone needs to know the same things at the same time. Then you can formulate your message to assure each audience that you understand the issue, and are taking control and working to remedy the situation or offset the damage.
Creating a media strategy checklist that details the steps you need to take will prove invaluable. Even some of the most organised people can panic when under pressure. Your checklist should detail all the steps you need to take and when.
Get Your Crisis Communication Plan in Place
Even if you think this may never happen to your business, the risk is always there. And while you can’t always prevent a crisis from happening, you can be prepared for dealing with such a situation should the need arise to give yourself the best possible chance to recover from it.
The team at Pure Public Relations specialise in creating crisis communication and management plans for small and medium businesses, charities and not-for-profits. Whether you want to plan for a potential crisis or are dealing with an urgent problem right now, we give you the tools you need to manage communications and media relations when something goes wrong.