CRISIS PREPARATION: HOW TO PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED
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While we all wish crises never happen, the reality is that at some point in time, your company will face a crisis. The worst mistake any business can make is not to have a crisis communication plan. How, though, can you effectively plan for the unexpected? Keep reading to learn more about crisis preparation and how to implement these communication tactics into your public relations strategies.
Crisis Preparation: Creating the Communication Plan
To effectively prepare for a crisis, you need a plan. Most organizations do not have a crisis communication plan, which is the first mistake made when dealing with crises. If you do not have a plan of attack, it is all too easy to let emotions take over and not make rational decisions. However, having a plan gives you the steps you need to take to manage a crisis.
Designating responsibilities is one of the first things you should do in crisis preparation. Know who your spokesperson is so that they can handle the media. You also need to designate who is writing any press releases, statements, social media content, and any other internal and external communication along with who is approving any content. This way, when a crisis hits, each worker knows what they are supposed to do and who to report to.
Prepare a Statement
In your crisis communication plan, you should have a general statement that can be easily adapted for any crisis. You can have a couple of options that fit scenarios ranging from product malfunctions to employee and leadership scandals. Having a template written is also beneficial so you can easily fill in the blanks and get a statement out quickly.
Your first statement can be as simple as stating that you are acknowledging the problem and are further investigating the problem to take action. If your company is not at fault, state it! If you do not, it will only make your company look guilty. Therefore, having already prepared statements is critical to staying ahead of a crisis.
Write Up Templates
Just like writing a template for a statement, you should also have templates for press releases and social media content. If you don’t have anything prepared, it will take twice as long to get any communication out. Working off of a template will not only cut the time but will also give you a solid starting point in a hectic time.
Crisis Preparation: Implementing the Plan
Implementing the crisis communication plan in your organization is critical to effective crisis preparation. Every worker in your company should understand what their role is during a crisis. Even if workers are not on the PR team, they need to know who to direct the media to for any questions. Otherwise, even a well-meaning employee can slip and say the wrong thing and make matters worse.
Go Over the Plan Regularly
In order to successfully use your crisis communication plan, you need to go over your plan with your organization. Figure out how many times work for your business and then plan those times into your schedule. Maybe you go over the plan biannually with everyone in the company, but just make sure that you go over the plan enough so everyone knows what to do when a crisis hits.
Prepare for Mock Crises
You can also prepare for mock crises to test out your crisis communication plan. This way, you can see where your weak links are and adjust your plan accordingly. While you cannot know what is going to happen, practicing handling a crisis can only help you better manage one when it arises.
Check out Rhett Buttle’s article, “Five Steps To Preparing Your Business For A Crisis,” at Forbes to learn more about crisis preparation for your business.
Crisis Preparation: Approaching the Crisis
Now, how are you going to handle a real-life crisis? The first thing you should do in a crisis is go back to your plan and go through the steps. Every crisis will be different, but by working as a team, your company will be able to get out of these tough waters.
Refrain from Making Emotional Decisions
One of the worst things you can do in a crisis is let your emotions take over. Even if your company is in the right, you need to make clear, rational decisions. If you lash out on social media or in a press conference, that will only make matters worse.
Get Ahead of the Story
In a crisis, you need to get ahead of the story. This is especially the case if you did nothing wrong. Silence only confirms guilt in the journalist’s and public’s eyes. Put out a statement right away to create your own narrative before someone else does it for you.
This is also where having a great spokesperson is useful. Having someone who can get in front of the press, give a statement, and handle questions is key to handling a crisis. Only the designated spokesperson should communicate with the media. Make sure your team understands this as journalists will try to coax people who are not media trained to speak to them. Even simple questions can be misleading and spiral out of control. Therefore, having a trained spokesperson is the best tactic for success.
Spin Your Own Narrative
As stated above, you need to get ahead of the story and spin your own narrative. If you are in the wrong, admit what happened and state how you will fix it. If you were in the right, provide evidence as to why your company is not at fault.
You also need to be consistent in all of your internal and external communication. Make sure your employees have clear expectations for what to do during the crisis. Any external communication especially needs to be consistent because journalists and the public will see any inconsistency as lying. Therefore, craft your messages consistently to best battle through the crisis.
While crisis preparation can be taxing, it is the best practice to prepare for the unexpected. Having a plan is critical to managing any crisis that could arise.
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