How to Practice Crisis Communication
Let’s be honest here for a second. If a crisis hits you right now, are you fully prepared to handle it? Can you confidently say that you will come out of it alive and well? The chances are, while some of you may say yes, most probably are not as prepared as they think they might be.
In order to get through a situation of distress, you need to practice crisis communication. PRLab has thought of a few methods you can implement to execute a better and stronger crisis communication.
First, startups and scale-ups are particularly vulnerable to these unfortunate events which is why it is crucial for them to plan ahead. Any kind of crisis will most likely impede future growth, funding, building new partnerships, etc.
It is time to put your aspirations aside because none of what we’re about to say matters if you don’t survive. Before being able to lead your company out of a crisis, you must first have the following three things:
Roots are a metaphor for our support network; our home base. Being firmly implanted in your industry can increase the chances of your company being able to stand up strong during the storm. Make sure you can rely on your employees and partners. Treat them with kindness and respect. Establish strong bonds of trust with your clients.
Strong roots mean security and you can only achieve this by nurturing your tree correctly. With healthy roots and solid values comes growth.
Funding is extremely important for your company’s survival. There is no way you can turn a bad situation around if you don’t have enough funds.
With the right knowledge, skills, and resources, there is a good chance you can pull yourself through the crisis.
Now that you know what qualities you need to ensure your immediate survival, let’s take a look at the different crisis communication steps you need to take in order to stay afloat.
Step One: Identify Your Weaknesses
You want to prepare by making internal and external risk analysis. It is important to take a good look at your company and admit where some lines may be faulty. I know, it isn’t easy. Your company is like your other child. But let’s be real, it isn’t, and that is totally okay. By observing your weaknesses, you’re giving yourself the chance to fix some issues which in the long run can help you avoid a crisis.
Step Two: Convert The Risks Into Scenarios
While it is impossible to truly be able to predict every possible outcome, there’s a good chance that by preparing for each one you can think of, you’ll make it out alive.
The biggest mistake you can make is being in denial and thinking “This won’t happen to us.” The truth is, sometimes a crisis is just out of our hands, so remember to include the unthinkable when you make a list of possible scenarios.
By creating a scenario for each risk and make a plan for each possible scenario, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of trouble when the inevitable comes.
Step Three: Build A Crisis Communication Team
This is probably the most important step. You need to build a crisis communication team, preferably and strongly advised before a crisis takes place. By having this specialized predisposed unit in place, they will be able to take on any issue that will come its way. The core members of this team should ideally consist of:
- PR Executive
- Legal counsel
Other possible members to consider are the heads of major divisions and individuals with special knowledge related to the current crisis.
Step Four: Designating A Spokesperson
Appointing a spokesperson and training them with the right skills is key to surviving a crisis. This individual will be in the front line of all channels of communication. They need to be capable of transmitting clear messages to the public.
Another suggestion, if it is a possibility for your organization, is to train multiple spokespeople, whether for back-up, emergencies, or because one person may be more fit for a certain situation than another, having options is always useful.
Step Five: Communicating The Issue
Communication is key. If a crisis is happening there are people you will need to inform right away.
The first people you’ll want to inform is your team. They are your helping hands and putting the cards on the table from the get-go will ensure proper managing of the situation. Be careful to present the information in an honest and calm manner to avoid panic.
Next, you should contact journalists. You may think to yourself if we’re in a crisis, why would we want to make it even more public? The truth is, the story is going to come out either way. By taking initiative, YOU get to control the narrative. If the story is told the right way you can shed some light on why your company is valuable and important.
Another way you can inform people is through various social platforms. Social media may be the fastest way to communicate a message to your fellow employees and stakeholders. Make sure your channels are well connected and updated so that when the time comes where you need to spread the word you will have all your contacts at hand.
Step Six: Take Responsibility
If you or your company is at fault you need to admit your mistakes. The truth is oftentimes complicated and messy but your peers, partners, and clients will value your honesty. It takes a strong person to admit their faults and that is what makes them so admirable. Lying will just trigger a downward spiral and worsen the crisis.
Step Seven: Staying Relevant
“Relevance is the most important thing in effective communications,” states Leoni, 20 year veteran in technology communication and brand work, at PRLab’s most recent webinar on Crisis Communication.
“What is relevant may change week to week.” What she stresses most of all is that each company needs to take a subjective approach to finding out what is relevant to your audience in a particular time.
Leoni advises to ask yourself questions such as:
- “what is important that my company can change in the world?”
- “what can my company contribute?”
- “what is it that this message can do for people?”
Step Eight: Post-Crisis Analysis
A step that is often overlooked in most crisis communication guides is post-crisis analysis. When the storm has passed and you see a glimpse of the rainbow take a minute and sit down with your team. Ask yourself questions such as:
- “What went wrong?”
- “What did we learn from this?”
- “What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”
- “Which areas of the crisis communication plan worked/did not work?”
So you now know how to practice crisis communication, right?
With these eight steps, you should be on the right track to practicing great crisis communication skills. Don’t forget, you can’t practice these skills before assuring yourself that your company has strong roots, enough short-term funds, and savvy! If you want to read more tips on crisis communication check out our article on What Absolutely Not To Do In Times Of Crisis on our blog!
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