In today’s world, almost any type of crisis can happen. From a data breach to a natural disaster, companies need to be prepared for every eventuality. This fundamental guide provides you with essential information on what is and how to create & execute a crisis communications plan. By following these simple steps, you can minimize the damage caused by a crisis and protect your company’s reputation.
Table of Contents:
- What is crisis communications and why do you need it?
- The four steps of effective crisis communication
- How to create a crisis communication plan
- What to avoid for effective crisis communication
What are crisis communications and why do you need it?
Crisis communications is a facet of the overarching business continuity management strategy. It is the establishment and application of guidelines that guide an organisation on how to communicate effectively in the event of a crisis. The strategy involves anticipating potential risks, preparing responses in advance, establishing communication channels, and executing a quick and effective response when a crisis occurs.
Crisis communications isn’t merely about managing the flow of information in the throes of a precarious situation. It also encompasses post-crisis communication to ensure that stakeholders’ trust remains intact, and the organisation’s reputation is rehabilitated efficaciously.
The importance of robust crisis communications cannot be overstated. Given the volatile business environment we operate in, punctuated with unforeseen occurrences such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, pandemic disruptions, and more, the question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’ a crisis will strike.
Having a proficient crisis communications strategy ensures your company can manage any critical incident in the following ways:
- Information Control: It allows you to control the narrative around your brand, presenting accurate information in a timely manner and preventing the spread of rumours or misinformation.
- Stakeholder Confidence: Transparent communication during a crisis can maintain or rebuild stakeholder confidence and trust. Stakeholders include not just your clients, but staff, shareholders, suppliers, and the wider community.
- Operational Continuity: Prompt and effective communication can facilitate business operations to resume quickly or continue with minimal disruptions during a crisis.
- Reputation Protection: Crucially, it aids in protecting your organisation’s reputation, an invaluable asset in today’s hyper-visible, interconnected world.
In essence, crisis communications are a fundamental aspect of any organisation’s risk management strategy in today’s vastly unpredictable business environment. Establishing proficient crisis communication protocols can control the information, ensure stakeholder confidence, enable operational continuity, and most importantly, protect your organisation’s reputation.
Done right, it’s more than merely staying afloat during testing times; it’s about rising with resilience, ready for future challenges.
The four steps of effective crisis communication
Navigating the turbulent waters of a crisis requires more than just a hastily constructed response; it necessitates a carefully devised strategic plan that encompasses the following four steps:
- Preparation: One of the most crucial steps in effective crisis communication is adequate preparation. Develop a crisis communication plan that identifies potential risk scenarios, key stakeholders, necessary communication channels and roles, and responsibilities of the team members. Incorporating regular drills or simulations into your preparation routine aids in better understanding of the plan and helps identify any potential loopholes.
- Response: The response phase is when the rubber meets the road; it’s the immediate actions and communications following the onset of a crisis. Rapid, transparent, and consistent communication is crucial here. Not only must your organisation provide timely updates to stakeholders, but also empathetically acknowledge the impact of the crisis and outline steps being taken to mitigate it.
- Management: This phase involves continual engagement with stakeholders, managing media interactions, and updating crisis communication based on the evolving situation. Actively listen to stakeholders’ concerns and be responsive in addressing them. There could be unexpected developments; hence, the ability to adapt and modify your communication in line with changing circumstances is vital.
- Recovery: Once the immediate crisis is under control, the recovery phase commences. This phase focuses on repairing any potential damage to your organisation’s reputation, restoring trust among stakeholders, and conducting a post-crisis evaluation. This evaluation facilitates learning from the crisis, refining your processes, and better preparing for future incidents.
While these steps provide a roadmap to navigate the crisis communication terrain, being mindful of the nuances of your specific crisis, audiences, and communication channels will make this roadmap purposeful and pertinent to protecting your company’s interest. With these foundational steps, your organisation is set to tackle any crisis with resilience and poise.
How to create a crisis communication plan
- Understand your Audience: The first step is to know who you are communicating with. Recognising your stakeholders or audience, including clients, employees, or shareholders, will enable you to tailor-compelling messages that address their concerns appropriately.
- Specify your Communication Team: Identify a team that will be responsible for communicating during a crisis. This team should involve skilled personnel or leaders who preferably possess strong communication skills and understand your business operations well. Their role involves managing all forms of communication throughout the crisis to ensure consistency and clarity.
- Conduct a Risk Assessment: Evaluate potential crises that your company might face and focus on the ones most likely to happen based on your industry’s vulnerabilities and historical trends. Whether it’s an operational failure, a cyber-attack, or a natural disaster, understanding these risks helps in effective preparation.
- Create Your Key Messages: One thing a crisis doesn’t afford is time. Therefore, having preset messages for different risk scenarios can be a lifesaver. Tailoring your communication and resonating with your stakeholders’ sentiment is the key to ensuring their unwavering support during challenging times.
- Choose your Communication Channels: Depending upon your stakeholders, your choice of communication channels may vary. It could range from press releases, social media, newsletters, emails, or an internal communication system. A variety of channels ensures your message reaches a broader audience promptly.
- Implement Regular Training and Exercises: Having a crisis communication plan on paper is not enough. Regular training and exercising of the plan are crucial in preparing your teams to respond swiftly and skilfully when a crisis hits.
- Review and Improvement: A crisis communication plan is not a static document. It evolves as businesses grow, environments change, or new threats emerge. Regular reviewing and improving of your plan ensures your organisation remains at the forefront of crisis readiness.
Tips for managing a crisis
- Maintain Open Communication: Transparency is vital in a crisis. Ensure you maintain open lines of communication with all stakeholders. Whether it’s employees, customers, or investors, providing factual information about the crisis and how it’s being managed helps build trust and reduces misinformation.
- Mobilise Your Crisis Management Team: As soon as a crisis hits, mobilise your crisis management team. This team should initiate the implementation of the crisis response plan, manage internal and external communications, and oversee the procedure until the situation is resolved.
- Prioritise Issues: Understand that not all problems can be addressed immediately. Prioritise the issues at hand based on their urgency and impact on operations. This facilitates a systematic approach towards problem-solving and helps mitigate risks effectively.
- Show Compassion: During a crisis, don’t forget the human element. Whether it’s an internal issue affecting staff or an external concern impacting customers, being compassionate helps your organisation maintain relationships and convey empathy.
- Monitor the Situation: Stay updated on the progression of the crisis. This could involve tracking media coverage, engaging with stakeholders, or assessing the impact of the crisis on various aspects of the business.
- Debrief and Learn: Once the immediate threat has passed, take time to debrief. Identify what worked well, where the gaps were, and how you can improve the process for the future. Incorporating these learnings into your crisis management plan will bolster your readiness for future crises.
Remember that no crises are the same, and thus, your response must be flexible and adaptable. At RiskLogic, we offer bespoke strategies to arm your organisation with the expertise and knowledge needed to manage a crisis efficiently. With our help, you can turn a crisis into an opportunity for growth and resilience.