10 tips for communicating in a crisis

Read these 10 tips today to prepare for tomorrow’s inevitable crisis.

Read these 10 tips today to prepare for tomorrow’s inevitable crisis.

Crises come in all shapes and sizes, and impact businesses and organizations across every industry. There is no time like now to prepare for unforeseeable crises.

Crises are not if questions; they are when questions.

A crisis is an opportunity for your brand to shine through, or fall embarrassingly short. Either shapes your brand perception for years after the incident.

How well you manage a crisis depends on how well you and your team have planned, prepared, and practiced for the unexpected.

Please take these 10 steps:

1. Plan in advance: It is imperative to have a crisis plan that augments your overall operational plan. If you already have your plan, review it and PRACTICE. Hold mock and unplanned crisis drills to sleep well knowing everyone knows what to do and where to be when a crisis strikes.

2. Engage your communications leader: Include your communications leaders in your operational response team. This ensures your brand is represented well from the start and you will constantly balance the court of “public” opinion with the court of “legal” opinion.

3. Clarify roles: Exactly who will communicate with all of your key stakeholders? Depending on the situation, the “who” changes. And that person must have already have mastery as a spokesperson.

4. Define your key stakeholders: Who needs what information from you and when? What is the cascading of information approach?

5. Activate all available communication channels: Social media means communication happens instantly. Whether it’s face-to-face, phone, email, social media, etc., identify which channels you will use to communicate with the people who matter most to your organization.

6. Craft preliminary messaging in advance: Brainstorm as many crisis situations as possible and craft key messages for your spokespeople to use when the time comes. But know that in the real-world, you’ll be communicating with both incomplete and potentially wrong information.

7. Identify the outcome you want to achieve: Crises don’t always lend themselves to control, but it’s key to have a pre-defined outcome in mind, so you stay focused on what’s most important to your organization.

8. Conduct regular scenario planning: Efficient and effective responses to crises require you to practice evolving scenarios with your entire team. (Active shooter is now an integral part of the preparation.)

9. Respond, review and adjust: Collect feedback from your employees, target audiences, etc. and apply it to your communications moving forward.

10. Commit to accurate and transparent information: In short, never lie. For each potential scenario, have a statement you can use from the time the crisis strikes to when you have all the details at your disposal.

If you don’t know exactly what’s going on, don’t be afraid to use a positive non-statement like, “We are understandably concerned by this incident and are investigating it to uncover exactly what happened.”

Preparing for crises can save you immeasurable emotional and financial capital. Do yourself, your organization and your stakeholders a favor and prepare today.

Want to learn more about planning for a crisis? Check out our strategic communications services or reach out to Eric directly.

Onward.