Crisis PR: Keeping Employees in the Know

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When most companies think of crisis management, they think of handling the issue in the public sphere. However, more and more, companies realize the best approach to managing crises includes employees in the process. They are, after all, the face of the company; especially in service industries. So, even before the public gets its share of reassurance, reassure employees to keep them onboard.

No one wants to work in the finance department during an accounting fraud or in the marketing division after a controversial ad reaps backlash. Ensure employees know what happened, what the company plans to do about it, and what it needs from them to keep the ball rolling.

Otherwise, companies could find people bailing from these key departments when crises strike or spilling the beans to the media.

Plan Beforehand

PR professionals can’t say it enough: one of the biggest mistakes companies make is not having a crisis plan in place. A crisis plan should include everything from how to evacuate the building in case of an emergency, to how to deal with the media, should the company land in the spotlight for any reason – good or bad.

Even favorable publicity can turn to bad publicity if the media gets wind of the wrong words. Nothing makes better news than the fall of a hero.

Include Employees

Another big mistake companies make is to not include employees in their crises management plan. Instead, executives with little to no contact with actual customers and clients tell employees what to do through emails and documents, in which the employees had no input. This makes no logical sense. To ensure plans are relevant and effective, involve the people most likely affected by them, or who need to use them.

Effect on Employees

Many companies do not consider the effect crises have on the employees fronting the company. Customers make snide remarks. Journalists show up at the front desk asking for “off the record” comments for a good story. Family members of affected parties and brand ambassadors might become harassed by the press at home, work or school.

Executives need to plan for these situations and decide how best to combat it, to protect employees and their personal interests. Otherwise, they risk losing valuable talent and possibly creating an angry informant for the press.

Defining a crisis

In considering the effect on employees, executives can re-define what counts as a crisis for the company. Some crises will not affect the entire company or branch. It may affect just one department, or even just two employees who can’t seem to get along. Lower level managers need proper training to handle these issues before it spills into a bigger problem – like a disgruntled coworker returning to work with a gun, bent on revenge.

By involving employees in the crisis management process, companies stand a much better chance of overcoming obstacles in the media. This not only means keeping employees up-to-date or asking for their constant help to resolve issues. It means putting measures in place to ensure they have some say in how the company manages the crisis, and that some thought is given to their safety and well-being.

Top American crisis PR firms who we recommend include Sitrick & Co., Sard Verbinnen & 5WPR.

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