It’s easy to believe that nothing bad will ever happen to a business…until it does.
A good crisis communications strategy is one of the most valuable assets a business can have, but is often overlooked and set aside – until there’s an issue.
To better understand why a crisis communications strategy is essential for any business, let’s look at what qualifies as a crisis.
What is a crisis?
There are many well-known instances of businesses going through crises, including the infamous BP oil spill, the tragic disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH307, and the Cadbury scandal in Malaysia. However, even if the situation is more subtle, it can be considerably detrimental to an organisation.
Generally, a crisis can be classified as any instance that threatens public safety, the reputation of an organisation or its industry, finances, and internal and external stakeholders.
There are many crises that could occur, ranging from internal conflicts and instances that become known to the public to external circumstances such as natural disasters. These catastrophes tend to occur with little to know warning, giving businesses short notice to react. Whether the crisis was caused due to internal or external circumstances, it’s critical for businesses to take control of the situation and navigate the storm effectively.
The importance of a well-rounded crisis strategy
When you think about crisis management, it’s likely that you are only thinking about public relations. However, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. In a crisis situation, it is not only the public that is affected, but everyone within the organisation too. A well-developed crisis management strategy conveys accurate information and key messages to all key stakeholders, including the CEO, stakeholders, and not to forget – all employees.
If all communications are targeted at external stakeholders, there is always a possibility that employees themselves are misinformed. This poses a serious risk to the business’s reputation, which is why it is key to brief all stakeholders.
Key steps in a crisis management strategy
Of course, the best thing to do is avoid a crisis, if possible. While some things are out of our control, other crises only occur when an issue is not dealt with appropriately from a communications perspective, and then gets blown out of proportion.
Hence, the first step to successfully resolving a crisis is having a good crisis management team onboard, consisting of communications professionals, stakeholders, and designated spokespeople. By having a crisis comms strategy and team in place, many day-to-day problems can be managed quickly, correctly and seamlessly, before any major reputational damage can occur.
Of course, in the case that a crisis really cannot be avoided, it’s important for businesses to keep the following framework in mind:
- Adopting a “shoot first and ask questions later” approach can feel right at the time, given the time and external pressure but it is one of the most detrimental approaches to a crisis.
Ensuring the situation is investigated and assessed is key to get to the bottom of the issue, and the first step in creating an effective messaging to navigate the storm.
- Developing key messaging and stance
- Previously, we discussed the importance of all stakeholders being aligned – and developing a crisis-specific key messaging framework and stance is the most effective way to do this.
Developing a clear and simple messaging will help all spokespersons and stakeholders get on the same page when representing the organisation and help reduce the chance of conflicting messages.
- Identify appropriate communications methods
- There are many ways to communicate during a crisis situation, and it is important to find the right channel to address all stakeholders. Identifying your audience will clarify how they need to be addressed.
While a well-crafted press release can sometimes do the job, other situations would require letters, exclusive interviews or even press conferences to address stakeholders in an impactful manner.
- Monitor and improve
- No matter how flawless your communications methods might be, not everyone is going to be onboard with it. It’s important to derive key learnings from crisis situations and continuously improve your crisis communications strategy.
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