Having a Proactive Strategy is Key to Safely Navigating Your Company Through Its Next Crisis
The true measure of a ship’s captain isn’t merely his ability to transport passengers and cargo to their destination; what is equally if not more important is his skill at steering his ship out of trouble when storms arise. The same goes for businesses.
Whether you’re an owner, board member, VP, or other employee who has a part in your company’s communications, think about all the time, resources, and effort you and your team put into the business, doing everything you can to run a tight ship, stay on course, and keep the revenue flowing.
Now imagine one of the following storms appears out of nowhere:
- An employee posts an insensitive comment or meme, and it goes viral
- There’s a bad accident or criminal incident at your HQ or retail store
- Your product or service ends up causing injuries, making people sick, or worse
- A disgruntled ex-employee or angry customer files a lawsuit against you
- One of your ads is deemed offensive, and the boycott calls begin
If you read the news on a regular basis, you know that these types of crises happen all the time to brands and businesses across the country. With the Internet giving media greater power than ever before to amplify and often blow even the seemingly smallest news stories out of proportion, you can’t afford to be unprepared for your company’s next crisis.
The types of crises your company could face depends in large part on your industry products, or services. For instance, an oil company might have to respond to major public outcry when a devastating oil spill results in significant environmental impact. Or a beer company could face a crippling boycott when its choice of spokesperson doesn’t necessarily align with the values of its blue collar market. What’s more, the size and recognizability of your brand can be another key factor in how large or small the crisis becomes, making it even more critical that you have a plan in place to respond as effectively as possible.
Crafting a Proactive Game Plan
Having an effective response strategy in place must be your brand’s top priority if you hope to shape the narrative and successfully navigate its next crisis.
Whatever your industry or company size, understanding your customers and how your product or service is perceived by different sections of the public is important if you want to communicate effectively with them. When a crisis strikes, mayhem can ensue if you’re not prepared to be one step ahead of those trying to bring you down.
Here are 7 tips to get you started when crafting your business’s crisis comms plan:
1. Develop a Crisis Comms Master Document
When a storm approaches, a ship’s captain has his map and compass at the ready in order to identify and follow the best escape route. Likewise, to successfully face your company’s next crisis, you should have an up-to-date, extensive crisis comms document for you and your team to follow.
This requires the input of all relevant stakeholders, especially those who will be carrying out the plan and getting the message out. Crafting this document takes careful thought and diligence, but the time and effort you put into it now will well be worth it.
2. Assemble a Team & Assign Roles
Whether battening down the hatches or manning the sails, there are different responsibilities for different members of a ship’s crew that, when done together correctly, offer the best odds of weathering a storm. Your crisis comms team should work the same way, as there will be much to do, from contacting officials, answering calls, and sending out emails to arranging meeting areas, holding press conferences, and so on.
Delegating responsibilities, spreading out the workload, and establishing a chain of command beforehand so that each member understands what their role is will help your team be more efficient and effective when the time comes.
3. Imagine All Possible Scenarios, Especially Worst-Case
It’s important that you and your team leave no stones unturned and brainstorm every possible negative situation that can arise, especially the worst-case scenarios. List them, and go through them one at a time, discussing and settling on how best to respond to each one. Anticipating the reactions of different players such as the media, employees, and watchdogs is essential to presenting a professional, confident image and not being caught off guard.
4. Pre-Write Responses for Your Spokespeople
Every crisis is different and requires a unique, purposeful response across all relevant communications channels including emails, social posts, phone calls, and press conferences. Consistency and clarity are important here so that your messaging is easily understood while avoiding giving out conflicting information.
It behooves you and your company to draft potential statements tailored to each specific audience, whether it’s employees, their families, the media, elected officials, or the general public. Having these at the ready will save you crucial time and stress while allowing you to be confident in your responses, rather than trying to come up with replies on the fly.
5. Prioritize Accuracy Over Speed in All Your Communications
One of the worst errors you can make in your response is to rush out information that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted for accuracy. The chaos of some crises can result in conflicting information. With everyone hungry for details, it’s natural to want to keep them as up to date as possible and quell fears, especially when their loved ones are involved; however, accuracy must be your top priority here.
Imagine the hours or days of hell thinking your loved one was fatally injured on a job site, only to find out later that the information was incorrect. Even worse, imagine hearing that your loved one survived an accident only to learn shortly after that they did not. Hurried, inaccurate information that delivers horrible news or false hope that must later be corrected is arguably the worst thing your business can do to employees’ families or affected members of the public. It’s critical in these situations to verify details, provide minimum information out of caution, show empathy, and properly express severity while not over-assuring.
6. Put Together a Contact List of All Relevant Stakeholders
When a crisis occurs and the community is impacted, you’ll need to reach out to relevant parties from the local media members to government officials. This is where it helps to have a frequently updated contact list of those stakeholders, featuring phone numbers, email addresses, individual titles, and other key information, for those in your organization who will be relaying vital information.
7. Take No Chances & Partner With Crisis Comm Experts
The ramifications of poorly handling a crisis range from slight loss of your customer base to absolutely devastating sales numbers and irreparable harm to your brand. That’s to say that crisis communications isn’t something you should leave to chance or an amateurly crafted plan.
At M:7 Agency, our ability to craft consistent, persuasive messaging combined with our extensive experience with a wide variety of industries and sectors of the public makes us a trusted partner for communication services including crisis comms planning. We know just how to speak to the community, government officials, and media so you’re confident and prepared when a crisis hits. Backed by our creative and strategic services, we offer the crisis comms leadership your business needs to weather any storm. Reach out to us today for expert help staying ahead of your next crisis.