If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that an effective crisis communications strategy is essential.
While we can’t plan for every potential problem (let’s be honest, NO ONE could have predicted 2020), it is crucial to be prepared so that you’re not blindsided when a crisis does occur.
From smaller issues like adverse weather conditions to major PR blunders, you should have a plan in place for any kind of situation that would require you to act fast and share important information.
What are some of the worst-case scenarios for your business? Plan how you would react if these were to happen. Develop a bank of statement templates that are ready to be deployed when needed, appoint a crisis management team to take charge of the situation and decide how you will share key messages.
Some of the top reasons for having a crisis comms plan are:
Alleviate stress - Your whole business may be thrown into disarray and you’ll probably have a million and one things suddenly thrown onto your to-do list. If you have a comms plan ready to be rolled out, it’s one less thing to think about and can be easily passed on to another employee to take charge of.
Control the narrative - People love to speculate, and if you don’t shut it down quickly it can run away from you. Prevent false information from spreading and get your key messaging out there ahead of others’ opinions or press coverage.
Protect your reputation - You want your clients to hear the news from you, not through Twitter, the news or - even worse - a disgruntled customer. Show that you have control of the situation and are actively working to resolve it.
Getting a plan in place will also allow you to discover what roles your colleagues can take in the communications strategy. Detail who will be in charge of monitoring social media comments, who will liaise with the press, who will contact shareholders and so on. Brief these employees in advance so they know exactly what their role will be and no one’s left floundering on the day.
Speaking of employees, don’t forget internal communications. Staff will also have to be kept in the loop and you should consider the best ways to do this. The entire company won’t need to be updated on every single detail, but key leaders will. Get clear on who needs to know what and maintain trust by being upfront about what’s going on.
When putting your plan together, it’s crucial to pay close attention to the copy as this can make or break the strategy.
In terms of how to communicate, here are some important points to consider:
Timely - get in touch with your audience as soon as possible, even if it’s just a quick note to say you’re aware of the issue and are working on a solution.
Consistency - keep updating as new developments occur.
Clarity - don’t try to bury the issue in a wordy statement. Keep your message clear, concise and transparent.
Understanding - if you’ve had a negative impact on your customers, acknowledge that and apologise sincerely. Take ownership of the situation and don’t shift the blame to anyone else.
Availability - let your audience know specific ways that you can help them and how they can access that help. Provide a customer service phone number or a dedicated email address.
Above all, be absolutely clear on what you’re saying, especially if you’re asking your audience to react in a certain way. We’ve all seen the disastrous UK government comms throughout the pandemic, where inconsistent messages have caused fatal confusion...
“Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
“ Stay alert, control the virus, save lives”
“Hands, face, space”
...all with similar graphics and not a lot of real information. What does “stay alert” actually mean in a practical sense? Snappy slogans are not what you’re aiming for - clarity is.
How you react in a crisis is a sign of how resilient you are. Managing the issue effectively can save a business’s reputation and make way for a period of rebuilding and restoration. A disaster doesn’t always have to be disastrous, and the best way to avoid that is a robust plan that’s ready to be deployed whenever you need it.
Need help with your crisis comms? Get in touch