How prepared are you should a crisis hit your company? Do you have strategy documents coming out of your ears in preparation for any eventuality discovered in your risk assessment?
At the MOL thought leadership event, Crisis Communications breakfast seminar, at The Studio in central Manchester, a panel of PR industry experts discussed how they deal with crisis situations.
Some people may believe that the effect of a crisis on an organisation will be in the form of financial, share price, or reputation erosion, however Sandy Lindsay MBE, Chair of Tangerine PR and The Juice Academy, introduced the concept that a crisis should be an opportunity to get a key message out in a responsible way.
The idea of capitalising on an opportunity whilst you have the media’s attention is not a new one but PR professionals across Manchester learned the key was to be transparent in their communications because a cover-up often becomes the focus of a story, rather than the incident which initially caught the journalist’s attention.
So what can you do in a crisis situation you have not anticipated? These ten steps will guide you to deal with your crisis successfully.
- Produce and provide a holding statement, for example, “I will investigate the situation and get back to you with a comment once I have had time to analyse the facts. Can I take your details to get back to you?” This will give you time to breathe and think.
- Gather the right team you need to communicate effectively (Hollywood model).
- Have a route to the top of the organisation, but use your judgement wisely on when/who to contact to be the spokesperson.
- Identify your public (or stakeholders).
- Plan your key messages and which of the traditional and new media platforms you plan to use.
- Prepare a short white paper with three options on how to handle the situation with the potential outcomes for each scenario. Be confident in your suggestion for the best course of action (include an opportunity).
- Brief the team on the course of action agreed.
- Design transparent holding statements to allow your team time to gather the correct information.
- Ensure someone is available to monitor responses using traditional and digital communication methods.
- Debrief the client/senior management team on the outcome of the actions once the dust has settled.
However, most crisis points can be anticipated through a risk assessment of your organisation’s operations, listening to and engaging with your public/s; or you may become aware of a crisis approaching via a colleague/client before the media has discovered it. In these instances you can plan, agree with the board and prepare in advance all of the above to create a proactive crisis communications action plan with strong key messages.
Here are some additional tips to help you prepare for a potential crisis you have identified.
- Practice your crisis scenarios with your team.
- Identify gaps in your team’s expertise and offer training.
- Share the location of your crisis communication action plans with key members of your team so they can be proactive in your absence.
- Review your action plans to ensure you are still happy with your chosen team and their contact details are up to date and your course of action is still the best one to take.