There are web postings galore that deal with crisis communications. The problem is, however, that once you’re in crisis, it’s far too late to start reading them. More than anything, this post is to encourage you to proactively envision situations that could imperil your company’s reputation and figure out way in advance what you’d do to mitigate any damage.
“Crises” come in many forms: e.g., an accident at the plant, accusations of financial misdeeds, disgruntled employees who are eager to air their grievances with the media. There’s a lot to consider, so book the conference room, assemble your key people, and perhaps use a few of these ideas as your starting point, because the smartest thing you can do is to be ready before a crisis happens.
- Anticipate what could potentially go wrong. You can’t predict the future, but you should be able to think through ways something could go wrong for your company or organization. This is an important way to not only identify areas of concern, it also helps leadership begin to understand the risks and impacts a crisis can have. To fully complete this important task, it may also require bringing in someone from the outside who can see your organization from a different perspective to help you better understand and anticipate crisis situations.
- When a crisis happens, “Tell the truth, tell it quickly, and tell it yourself.” This advice isn’t to say you shouldn’t be careful about what information you provide during a crisis, but it does mean you should be clear, accurate, and make it very apparent senior management of your company is very engaged in address the problem. Write and share information that makes it possible for everyone to understand the official position on the situation.
- Who’s your spokesperson? Has anyone at your company ever spoken to the media or other groups as an official representative? Are they good at it? Are they believable on camera? Can they get the message out? It is incredibly important to have answers to these questions before the crisis hits. Having the right person to represent an organization during a crisis is often when can determine the success or failure of a response plan. Not only do you need the right person, you need to invest the time and resources to make sure the person is prepared.
- What plan do you have to prevent this crisis from happening again? The media, your employees and other stakeholders will want to know what policies were in place to minimize the crisis at hand and what you plan to do to minimize the chances of it happening again. Not only will this be an important way to learn and prevent a crisis from happening again, it will also be an important message to share with employees, customers, and other audiences that are important to your long term success.
- Get help. Velocity Public Affairs can assist you. We’ll bring experience and insight to the table, but, more important, we’ll offer a fresh, third-party perspective on your plan and advise your team on how to optimize your interaction with the media.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of things to consider when you’re considering your crisis communications plan. Instead, if you’re now pondering what crises could potentially befall your organization and what you would do about them, reading this post has been an important use of your time.