Crisis communication planning is becoming a necessity among industries and businesses of all sizes. According to the Business Continuity Institute, an estimated 84% of organizations have an emergency communication plan in place. 55% use three or more methods for emergency communication. Despite this, nearly two-thirds say they are not confident in their ability to respond to a crisis. So, even though organizations recognize the importance of crisis communication, they still feel unprepared.
What is crisis communication?
During a disruptive event, crisis communication is a strategic approach to communicating with people and organizations. In the event of a crisis, proactive, timely, and detailed communication is essential if you want to stop the negative press from spreading. Every company should have an emergency communication plan that outlines the procedure for disseminating information in the event of a significant crisis or danger. After all, your company’s reputation is on the line when you face a crisis. It is critical to provide information to the public to reassure people and dispel misinformation. An external public relations firm can assist you with media relations. However, external communication may not be necessary if the organization resolves the crisis quickly enough.
As certain crises, such as cyberattacks, have become more common, crisis communication strategies have become an increasingly important part of business continuity and disaster recovery planning. You should always assume that you will eventually have to face a crisis of one kind or another if you want to develop an effective plan. Examples of crises include on-site incidents involving injury or property damage and natural disasters such as earthquakes. Ransomware exploits, particularly those involving the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII), also count as a crisis.
Difference phases of crisis communication
1) The pre-crisis phase
Planning and education are part of the pre-crisis phase. This is where you should monitor emerging risks, anticipate potential crises, educate interested parties about potential risks, and suggest appropriate actions in the event of a crisis. In this stage, you should also develop and test potential messages and communication systems. Furthermore, you need to contact the appropriate authorities and groups for collaboration and future assistance. Finally, you should name the crisis communication team that will communicate with the public during the incident.
2) The initial phase
During the initial phase, you need to start communicating with the media and members of the public. Since this could be a confusing and stressful time, you should try to provide clear and accurate guidance and resources for more information. If necessary, do your best to calm fears. Even if there is little information to share, crisis communication is crucial if you want to reassure people that the organization is working to find a solution.
3) The maintenance phase
This is where you communicate updates on the crisis and detail any ongoing risks. During this time, you need to collect feedback from anyone who has been affected by the crisis, correct any misinformation, and continue to assess the situation as you craft your response.
4) The resolution phase
When you reach the resolution phase, you can safely declare the crisis over. Nevertheless, you must still invest time and effort into recovery and communication. You should explain how you are recovering and rebuilding and provide more specific details about the crisis. During the resolution phase, it is also a good idea to start preparing for a future crisis.
5) The evaluation phase
During the evaluation phase, two-way communication is crucial. This is when you need to assess and evaluate your response to see how it went and how it could be improved. You need to evaluate your crisis communication plan and update or improve it as needed. Both the crisis and your response should be documented in detail in a report that you produce once the crisis has been resolved.
Tips For Effective Crisis Communication
Employees, groups, and individuals are affected by crises daily, and these crises occur in both expected and unexpected ways. As a result, you should establish a crisis communication plan to deal with any future adverse events. After all, it’s not a matter of if it happens but when it happens. If you are unsure about what you need to do to improve your crisis communication, here are some guidelines that you can follow.
1) Do not take too long to respond
Responding to the public and media press should not take too much time because this delay affects your reputation. Customers expect a quick response to their queries in this high-tech era. In fact, most customers will lose interest when you take too long to respond. Customers should not be overlooked, as their satisfaction is critical to your company’s success.
2) Value your supporters
You must value everyone who supports your company, brand, or product, as these individuals can help you to survive a crisis. Concentrate on forging a strong bond between your company and your supporters. You should solicit customer feedback and patiently listen to them to gain a better understanding of their perspectives. You should also remember to express gratitude to your genuine supporters by saying “thank you” regularly.
3) Do not degrade the victims
Many of us suffer greatly when crises occur. You must remember not to forget about the victims of the crisis you are facing. Rather, you should prioritize the victims, show empathy, care for them, and empathize with the suffering and pain caused by the crisis. Even if you haven’t caused these people any problems, you must acknowledge their suffering and offer genuine apologies. However, do not apologize for the sake of the company’s image because people can quickly tell the difference between a real apology and a forced one.
4) Avoid playing the blame game
Rather than finding someone to blame during a crisis, find accurate solutions to handle the situation. Looking for someone to blame will not help you resolve the crisis any faster. On the contrary, this kind of mudslinging might even tarnish your reputation even more. Instead of looking for someone to blame, focus your efforts on resolving the crisis. If you can do this, then it’ll be easier to convince the public that you genuinely care. Your priority always needs to be dealing with the situation as fast as possible. You should always put your employees, the general public, stakeholders, and investors first.
5) Do not hide any necessary information from the stakeholders, the public, and investors
It’s also important to share all pertinent information with the media, the press, board members, stakeholders, and employees. You must be open and honest with everyone, as seamless service is critical to your reputation. Keep in mind that the media feeds on crises. The media will be following your actions closely and looking for an opportunity to smear your reputation. Make sure you don’t give the media any reason to report a worse story than what is already being reported.
Steps to creating a crisis communication plan
1) Develop your crisis communication plan in advance
Crisis communication, like any other workplace strategy, requires a well-defined plan and objectives. Crisis communicators who do not have a plan are less likely to follow company rules and are less likely to align employees with the overall strategy. All possible situations in which crisis communication is required should be identified in the crisis communication plan. In the steps that follow, we will learn more about how to develop a successful strategy.
2) Appoint crisis communication team and spokesperson
It is critical to select and appoint the right people to serve on your crisis communication team. Even though the company’s CEO is a key figure, you should involve other departments in the strategy, including managers and HR professionals. Don’t forget the operations, internal communications, and public relations departments. You should train your spokesperson on the best way to deal with crises and emergencies, communicate effectively with employees and react quickly. More importantly, this person needs to be prepared to answer questions in a way that diffuses the situation and aligns with your brand message.
3) Train communications and help them develop good communication skills
Appropriate training and skill development are critical to a crisis spokesperson’s success. Aside from the training available to crisis communication professionals, these individuals must have excellent communication skills. As a result, proper communication skills are the most valuable skills a spokesperson can possess. After all, communication skills have a significant impact on whether or not you will be able to gain attention, connect with people, build workplace trust, and motivate your staff to work toward the same goals.
4) Bring board members on board
Board members should be well-versed in the company’s crisis management strategy and should work in tandem with other executives and crisis communicators. However, according to Deloitte’s crisis management research, only 49% of board members have engaged with management to learn about what has been done to support crisis preparedness. What’s more, only half of the respondents say that board members and management discuss crisis prevention specifically.
Make the distinction between “feeling ready” and “being ready”
According to the same Deloitte study, there is a significant gap between people’s perceived readiness and actual readiness to cope with and handle crises. According to the study, more than 76% of board members believe their companies would respond effectively if a crisis occurred tomorrow. Despite this, only 49% of board members say their companies monitor internal communications to spot potential problems. Furthermore, only 32% of respondents say their companies use crisis simulations or training.
Understand the audience
As with any other communication strategy such as marketing communications, crisis communicators must have a thorough understanding of their target audience. In most cases, a spokesperson will have to communicate with and connect with multiple audiences. As a result, for successful crisis communication, the ability to segment those audiences correctly and adjust the approach and messages is critical. Furthermore, depending on the nature of the crisis, not every employee may be the appropriate audience with whom to communicate. In any case, the message must be delivered promptly, and it must be straightforward to comprehend. The worst thing that can happen is for a company’s employees to hear about the crisis from someone other than their own boss, so timely communication is critical. However, many employers still lack the necessary communication tools to understand and manage their multigenerational workforce effectively.
Deliver messages that matter to target audiences
After you have defined your target audiences, adjusting the internal crisis communication content is the next step. During an emergency, keep in mind that not every employee should receive every message. This approach simply slows down employees’ response times by overloading them with irrelevant information. Ideally, you should use internal communication software to target specific individuals and departments and ensure that essential information reaches those who need it most. Employers who successfully implement these crisis communication practices are more likely to provide people with critical information, improve employee experience, streamline emergency response, protect people, safeguard physical and digital assets, and reduce lost productivity and revenue.
Implement two-way crisis communication
It is critical to recognize that employees are a valuable asset during a crisis because they are your company’s voice. They can actually be can be your biggest advocates. As a result, crisis communication should not be a one-way street. You should encourage your employees to participate in two-way conversations, express their concerns, and ask questions during a crisis. Unfortunately, many employers make the mistake of relying on employee newsletters and other forms of one-way communication that do not allow employees to express their opinions.
Communicate using the proper communication channels
It is common for employees to miss essential company updates in an environment where the primary communication tools are emails, intranets, or even instant messaging apps. You cannot afford to let this happen. Instead, you should ensure that you are using the appropriate internal communication channels. Which will serve as your primary source of information during times of crisis.
Make sure messages are accurate and consistent
The public and the media will scrutinize you during times of crisis. Providing accurate information is critical when communicating with both the media and your employees. Giving people incorrect information can spread misinformation, erode trust, and reduce employee motivation and engagement.
A crisis is nothing short of a nightmare for most businesses. Many professionals are being hired to help companies prepare for future crises and avoid reputational damage. Crisis communication actually plays a critical role in effectively managing crises. Interacting with employees and sharing necessary information to protect the company’s reputation are often practical ways to quickly and effectively handle a crisis through crisis communication. Effective crisis communication has the potential to change your company’s growth and development trajectory. To retain customers and smoothly resolve unexpected issues that could harm the company’s reputation, you should know how to keep customers at ease during times of crisis.
Do you need help turning a negative situation around? Pressfarm is a PR agency that works with companies to create quality content that contributes to a positive brand image. The experts at Pressfarm are skilled at creating everything from email pitches to press releases and building relationships with journalists and media outlets. Pressfarm clients also get access to Pressfarm’s extensive PR database with over 1 million journalists. Clients can use the powerful, filter-based search engine and find the ideal media match for their company and target audience. Pressfarm’s PR professionals and writers also help with online press release distribution. This increases release visibility in relevant search results across major search engines.
When experts like those at Pressfarm have put in place, especially during a crisis, it’s far easier to change public perception through the perfect keywords and marketing campaigns. Additionally, the Pressfarm team knows how to align strategies and content to their clients to effectively earn media coverage to alleviate any issues that come with a public crisis.
How Pressfarm can help
For an entrepreneur, overcoming a crisis can determine your success or failure. At Pressfarm, we help companies define the right narrative in the media for their brand – either to improve their credibility or resolve a PR crisis. If you are an entrepreneur wondering how to improve your company’s publicity, get in touch with us. We can help you to craft and distribute your press releases, develop compelling guest posts and design eye-catching media kits for your brand.
Learn why we are good at what we do from our customer success stories.