Different stages of crisis communication

2022-06-07 by Ronn Torossian

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.

Preparing

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.

Crisis recovery

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.

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities