It’s time to take crisis PR seriously
The hard truth about crisis management is that defensive public relations plans are often not considered by management until it is too late to avert the problem.
Each crisis is different, but organisations with pre-prepared plans in place have a greater chance of survival than those that don’t.
Naturally, management will focus on returning a business back to normal as quickly as possible during a crisis, but mishandling communication can have far more damaging consequences than the event itself.
Organisations that emerge from a crisis with a damaged reputation will have lost face with clients and investors while other stakeholders including customers may choose to do business elsewhere.
A poor reputation also correlates with increased costs for hiring and retention which degrades operating margins and prevents higher returns.
The arguments for not having a crisis management communication plan are that they cost money and may never be needed. On the other hand, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Many potential crises are easily identified, depending on the nature of the business, and even the best run organisations can face crises that are beyond their control caused by force majeure events such as terrorist activity, natural disasters and fatal accidents.
It is therefore prudent for every business, enterprise, organisation or group to have communication plans in place to deal with a crisis. This is true today, more than ever before, because in the digital age anybody can express their opinions online in real time.
Another benefit of preparing crisis plans is that they help to create a culture of communication within an organisation. Clear lines of communication are established and information is shared in a timely manner.
What to do
When preparing crisis management communication plans take on board that there are common elements in every plan, so it isn’t necessary to prepare plans for every crisis scenario.
The best approach is to start by pinpointing potential risks and determine which scenarios would have the biggest impact and have the greatest likelihood of occurring. Rank the potential crises events in overall order of importance using techniques such as SWOT analysis and develop modules with communication plans to address them. The next step is to outline procedures to be followed if the crisis turns out to be more severe than originally thought or changes over time.
Also, identify key target audiences and provide training to key people, such as media training for spokespeople. Set out a clear chain of command and ensure everyone in the crisis team knows what’s expected of them when disaster strikes.
Stick to the facts
Faced with a crisis, the pre-prepared communication plan will need to be tailored to address the particular set of circumstances. Crises create high-pressure situations and by getting out of the blocks quick-smart with a plan in place, an organisation will be in a strong position to protect its reputation and set the record straight.
The key to crisis management is to stay calm and tell the truth. Don't speculate, establish the facts and get them out.
How we can help
Axis PR Services include:
- Preparing crisis management plans
- Q&A for crisis response
- Media relations
- 24/7 crisis support
- Spokesperson training