In this series of posts on crisis communications, we’ve looked at:
- Why you need to have a crisis communications plan in place,
- Steps in a crisis communications plan,
- How to apologize if your brand messes up.
To wrap up our series on crisis communications, I decided to ask a few pros for their best crisis communications planning tips. Here’s what they had to say:
Plan your work, work your plan, stay the course:
“During times of sensitivity, adversity or crisis, the most important thing you can do is step up, be present, and answer the tough, yet important, questions. Even better, be prepared before a crisis so you and your company will know what to do during and after—you must create organizational muscle memory—many people are depending on you to lead them through the storm. Our mantra is, ‘If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And, when someone else tells your story, it certainly won’t be the story you want to be told.’”
Rob Weinhold, chief executive, Fallston Group
Identify and know your stakeholders:
“Who are the internal and external stakeholders that matter to your organization? I consider employees to be your most important audience because every employee is a PR representative and crisis manager for your organization whether you want them to be or not! But, ultimately, all stakeholders will be talking about you to others, not on your contact list, so it’s up to you to ensure that they receive the messages you would like them to repeat elsewhere.”
Jonathan Bernstein, president, Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.
Communicate with your wider staff:
“In a crisis, maintaining a single channel of communication with the press is vital if you want to keep control of the message being delivered. While your focus may be on what is happening externally, you have to remember the importance of ensuring your employees are aware of, and up to date on, the ongoing situation.
You have to remember; it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a receptionist or salesperson, for instance, could answer the phone or be approached by a journalist and say something they shouldn’t. Everyone who works for your business needs to know what to say (and what not to say!) if they are contacted by the media, and where they should direct them.
Advice also needs to be given on the content of your employees’ personal social media channels—this is especially true in a crisis situation and should be covered in your social media policy document.
This internal communication, alongside a robust social media policy document that limits company information being shared on personal channels, will help protect the established lines of communication between the business and the press.”
Martin Stone, associate director, Tank
Say—but more importantly DO—the right thing at the right time:
“Saying—but more importantly DOING—the right thing at the right time is key to managing a crisis. Get it right, and you could deepen your connection with your customers for the long term, and perhaps win more business through positive word of mouth. Get it wrong—and it could be a real threat to your future growth.”
Neil Hopkins, owner, NeoNodal
Make use of your internal champions:
“Plan out in advance some of the possible issues or crises the firm might encounter and draft working statements (these can always be amended if needed). Have an internal support network, spokespeople who can cover a particular area, e.g., an issue relating to HR, facilities, etc. and are aware that they are the crisis point person. You need to establish close contact with a core group of senior spokespeople who you can relay the issue to, plan/draft the response and issue. The key is speed and accuracy.
That said, make use of your internal champions, i.e., PAs, who can be invaluable in chasing down spokespeople, getting sign-off on statements, etc.”
Mark Hook, Head of PR, Brightpearl
Here’s hoping you’ve done your crisis communications planning for 2018—and that you won’t need to use it.