Navigating Crisis Communication: Seven Steps to Success

Author: Natalie Powers
Posted: Oct 14, 2020

The likelihood of an organization facing crisis in their lifetime is guaranteed in today’s climate. According to an ODM Group study, 59% of business decision makers have experienced a crisis in either their current or previous company.

As recessions pick up repetitive speed, natural disasters become more prevalent and social media churns endlessly, an organization’s need to manage crisis is necessary. Today, the need for business communication plans are as important as growth and succession plans.

According to Deloitte Global’s 2018 crisis management survey, “Stronger, Fitter, Better: Crisis Management for the Resilient Enterprise,” nearly 60 percent of respondents believe that organizations face more crises today than they did 10 years ago…”

With the right plan and responses, an organization can weather a crisis successfully. If you do not employ an experienced public relations professional or firm, here are 7 steps to keep you on the right path.

1. Select your spokesperson and approval process.

Ideally you have selected your spokesperson ahead of any crisis. This allows for quick transition into your communication plan. The right person represents the company well with a calm ease and expertise.

2. Respond quickly.

  • In the era of social media, anyone can tell your story for you. To own the narrative, control the story through your own quick posts.
  • Communicate first, but communicate well. Your initial response should include an explanation of what your organization is doing to manage operations or the issue.
  • Communicate even if you do not have all of the facts. It’s okay to release information as you obtain it in order to keep the lines of communication open and flowing.

3. Communicate (to the point of too much).

Speaking of communication, in the instance of a crisis, too much is better than not enough. Speak often and honestly to keep your audience informed. Consider the questions the public will ask. Then, answer them ahead of time to mitigate any miscommunication.

4. Be transparent.

We’ve all seen what happens when you stretch the truth or blatantly lie in the public eye. Save yourself some time and be honest with your audience. It is easier to admit the lack of knowledge than it is to retrace the steps of a lie.

5. Be accountable.

If the reason for a crisis is one of your employees or products, take ownership of the issue through a sincere apology and public-facing message. Arguing or passing blame in this situation will only keep the story alive longer. Take adequate steps internally to correct the situation while externally extinguishing the story.

6. Tie up loose ends.

Once the crisis begins to settle, communicate the organization’s next steps or changes made to exhibit proactivity. If the crisis is a natural event, communicate next steps, changes to operations and any philanthropic steps needed or taken. In any crisis, there’s an opportunity to pay it forward.

7. Measure and learn.

Post-mortem discussions are critical for future improvement. If the organization utilizes an online listening platform and clipping service, request a report to determine the conversations and mentions value – good or bad.

Learning from any crisis assists in managing the next one. Unfortunately, there will more than likely be one. Being prepared for it helps move the organization forward.

Have an interview to prepare for? Read these tips for nailing the questions in this next blog. 

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