Different stages of crisis communication
Crisis communications is that division of PR that helps to defend and protect an organization during a crisis. A crisis that has been handled well can actually elevate the reputation and credibility of an organization. When a crisis occurs, an organization has to get its story out, as it may be mistrusted by the public. The first few minutes and the first few hours are extremely important in deciding the media and public perception of a company. In today’s digital world with social media platforms gaining importance, information about a business can spread with an unprecedented speed. It is important to take control of the narrative. Given below are the different stages of crisis communication.
Primary research should be conducted to understand what key audiences think about a crisis situation and what they think should be the ideal response of a company. This information should be used in crafting key messages that address their needs. Social media platforms should be monitored as they are key ways to deliver information during a crisis. If it takes long to react effectively, the potential for damage is great. The most dangerous thing is not to react at all.
Create a crisis communications team
The crisis communications team would create key messages, gather information, and work with the media. The team should ideally be made of PR executives and legal counsel as their chief advisers. Other members would be heads of finance, personnel, and operations. There would be individuals who would be authorized to speak for the company in times of crisis. The roles of the members of the team should be well-defined. There should be one person who would field media calls, another who would handle internal communication, so on and so forth.
When the crisis occurs
The type of crisis and its severity should be assessed. The crisis communications team should be brought onsite. If possible, a media communication center should be created. The center should have fact sheets, media releases, and annual reports. There should be internal communication first, through email and messages. The employees should understand exactly what has happened. They can be the biggest allies of an organization. The statement that is sent to the media should contain certain things. The statement should have an acknowledgement of the crisis, concern for the affected people, details of what can be confirmed, and what is not known and the plans for moving forward. Video clips can also be created for a spokesperson making a statement. There should be responses to media requests. If that does not happen, a company loses credibility with the media and the public.
As the crisis unfurls
As the crisis unfolds, there should be apologies. There should also be openness and empathy. The attitude should be upbeat and there should be no overly optimistic claims. If a response is not possible, a reason should be provided. The best tools to communicate with the media should be selected. They could be blogs, written statements, or replies on social media platforms.
The crisis should be summarized in the company newsletter. The website of the company should provide up-to-date information. A report should be made on the handling of the crisis. Whatever lessons have been learned from the crisis should be used to update the crisis communication plan.
Ronn Torossian founded 5WPR.