Organisation Survival! Why Crisis Communication is Critical
Posted by Nicholas Ogden
For every organisation, large or small, it is essential to establish a good crisis plan. Effective and consistent communication is crucial to the everyday functioning of a business and even more so during a crisis. Yet it is surprising how many organisations, including leading international charities and NGOs, do not have an effective plan in place to ensure sensitivity and survival in a time of crisis. Here at Pro-Marketing, we have partnered with and spoken to some high profile Communication and PR professionals who have indirectly provided national brand media reaction statements over recent years. These conversations have provided an in-depth insight into why crisis communication is critical and how it should be carried out to avoid further brand detriment. So, how can your organisation establish an effective media crisis plan? This short read provides five essential steps that need to be considered to ensure organisation survival in times of crisis when you may find yourself under the spotlight. 1. Have a Plan Don’t wait for a PR or social media crisis to put a plan in place! Ensure that your organisation has an established template and format to be adhered to when an emergency situation arises. This is particularly important for executives with a media presence or those who are representing your organisation - it is essential that these people are aware of any fixed processes, and it is worth introducing a company policy where only authorised speakers are permitted to engage with the media. Your plan should not only include reaction times and an agreed-upon format, but should also allow for flexibility with regards to potential audiences. When responding to a media crisis, it is crucial that your affected audience is at the forefront of your plan, and making sure that any communications are in their interest is key. 2. Don't Panic Stay calm and ignore the inevitable and instantaneous pressure from the media to give an immediate response. It is important to consider the angles of the media and your audience, and produce a clear message. A premature response could be inadequate, uninformed, and lacking a complete picture of the scenario at hand. So, no knee-jerk reactions - this could actually do your organisation more damage than good! 3. Address the Crisis It is imperative to respond to and acknowledge a crisis that relates to your organisation, whether this be directly or indirectly. It is at this stage when you are addressing the crisis itself, that you need to ensure you acknowledge and, if appropriate, sympathise with the perspective of any victims. Major errors on behalf of organisations in recent years have included the covering up of incidents and in cases such as these, it is crucial that mistakes or incidents are acknowledged, investigated, and dealt with in a professional and timely manner. 4. Bespoke Response While having a plan is valuable, it is also just as important that each scenario is tailored to circumstance. Each crisis situation is inevitably different from the last, and therefore a bespoke response is needed! Any responses or messages communicated by your organisation need to not only be factual and transparent, but human. 5. Set Clear Actions Moving Forward! As an organisation, establish a clear action plan on how to support those affected, whether it be compensation, help and support, or anything else which relates appropriately to the specific scenario. This often means an organisation needs to step back from self-promotion and speak honestly and transparently about any errors and how these errors will be addressed going forward - this will undoubtedly be beneficial for your organisation in the long run. To conclude: Have a crisis communications strategy in place to avoid shell shock when a crisis arises and incompetence in responding to a critical situation. Be prompt in addressing the issue but do not rush communication to the detriment of your organisation. Tailor any communications or messages to show care and consideration towards those affected, and clarify a future company policy demonstrating that lessons have been learnt. For more information on crisis communication, or for Marketing, Fundraising and Communications roles in the Charity and Not-For-profit sector, contact Nicholas on 020 7269 6338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.