What is a Crisis: Any situation that is threatening or could threaten the business organisation, people, or reputation damage and negatively affect the brand’s bottom line.
Furthermore we can breakdown what crisis communications management as follows. crisis communications management refers to the technologies, systems, and protocols that enable an organization to effectively communicate during an emergency situation.
In today’s business, any organisation or brand is vulnerable to crises and it can happen at any given time. The days of covering up, hiding, or burying your head in the sand are over hoping that the problem will go away. You can try to run away however stakeholders will not be understanding or forgiving because the reputation of the organisation is at the stage and one must be held accountable at the end of the day and be willing to face the music. I remember with my previous advertising agency my job was client service and customer relations liaison officer. One of my accounts was the Department of Health and at that time we had a listeriosis outbreak. We had to work around the clock to deal with the situation, fortunately, we were prepared and managed to keep the situation at bay.
If you are not prepared the damage that you will incur will be severe. According to Jonathan Bernstein, experience demonstrates that organisational leadership often does not understand that in the absence of adequate internal and external communications.
Bernstein concludes that the following 4 factors are likely to happen:
- The operational response will break down.
- Stakeholders will not know what is happening and quickly become confused, angry, and negatively reactive.
- The organization will be perceived as inept, at best, and criminally negligent, at worst.
- The impact on the financial and reputational aspects will be more severe.
The fundamental steps of effective crisis communications are not as cumbersome however they require advance work and planning to minimize the damage. Here are 6 steps of crisis communications that can be followed by any organisation or brand that is faced with trouble to make the situation smoother and less harmful.
The 6 Steps of Crisis Communications
- Anticipate Crisis
Be proactive and start preparing for the crisis and put together a crisis communications team for intensive brainstorming sessions for all potential crises that could or may likely to happen. According to Jonathan Bernstein, there are at least two immediate benefits to this exercise: You may realize that some of the situations are preventable by simply modifying existing methods of operation. You can begin to think about possible responses, about best-case/worst-case scenarios, etc. Better now than when under the pressure of an actual crisis.
- Identify the Crisis Communications team
A small team of senior executives should be identified to serve as your organization’s Crisis Communications Team. Ideally, the organization’s CEO will lead the team, with the firm’s top public relations executive and legal counsel as his or her chief advisers. If your in-house PR executive does not have sufficient crisis communications expertise, he or she may choose to retain an agency or independent consultant with that specialty. Other team members are typically the heads of your major organizational divisions, as any situation that rises to the level of being a crisis will affect your entire organization.
- Identify and Train Spokesperson
Any brand or organization should ensure, via appropriate policies and training, that only authorized spokespersons speak for it. This is particularly important during a crisis. Each crisis communications team should have people who have been pre-screened and trained, to be the lead or backup spokespersons for different channels of communications.
All organizational spokespersons during a crisis must have:
- The right skills
- The right position
- The right training
- Establish Notifications and Monitoring System Tools
Notifications – with today’s technology we can reach several internal and external stakeholders within a click of a button so that everyone can be up to speed with what is happening. With today’s social media is the fastest way to reach as many people. It is important to have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and WhatsApp at your disposal. These platforms are not something you can do after a crisis breaks. With today’s news, it spread fast and one needs to be prepared.
Monitoring System – Intelligence gathering is an essential component of both crisis prevention and crisis response. Knowing what’s being said about you on social media, in traditional media, by your employees, customers, and other stakeholders often allow you to catch a negative “trend” that, if unchecked, turns into a crisis.
Likewise, monitoring feedback from all stakeholders during a crisis allows you to accurately adapt your strategy and tactics.
Both require monitoring systems to be established in advance.
- 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.
- Develop Holding Statements
While full message development must await the outbreak of an actual crisis, “holding statements,” messages designed for use immediately after a crisis breaks, can be developed in advance to be used for a wide variety of scenarios to which the organization is perceived to be vulnerable.
An example of a holding statement by the minister of health at the DoH – Department of Health, might be:
- “We have implemented our crisis response plan, which places the highest priority on the health and safety of our people in the country.”
- “Our thoughts are with those who were in harm’s way, and we hope that they are well.”
- “We will be supplying additional information when it is available and posting it on our website.”
The fundamental steps of effective crisis communications are not as cumbersome however they require advance work and planning to minimize the damage. Crises can happen at any time however with better planning in advance I believe that I can be managed, handled better, and keep the reputation of the organisation intact and well respected.