When an event occurs, usually it’s one that effects a larger variety of people and organisations. Seldom are you at the very centre of that event or having to explain why it happened. However, as we know, it can happen – no matter how unlikely you think it is.
CEOs and Boards need to be aware of the critical gap that keeps opening between business-as-usual corporate communications, and best-practice crisis communications.
Many leaders train or mentally prepare for day-to-day contentious issues, but few successfully manage a full-blown crisis because they have a mind set of “it’s unlikely to happen to me”.
Communicating effectively while facing cameras or media outlets while your company is being held prisoner during a ransomware attack takes skill. It requires crisis experience, frontline case studies you’ve been a part of, and an utter, intense knowledge of your plans and how to communicate them.
Many get it wrong, especially in political arenas. Many pass it to the next person or a PR Agency who are “representing the brand”. If you’re the CEO, if you’re at the top, it’s your job to deal with this. Your resilience team should have this in their best interest and part of their annual objectives; to get you trained up and confident.
Research by Pentland Analytics highlights that in the 12 months following a crisis, there is a 45% difference in shareholder value between those leaders who responded well, and those who didn’t.
So, what is the solution?
You need a communications team who can navigate effectively through reputational storms. They need the hard-and-true experience of real events under their belt, and those who can work under enormous pressure with a smile on their face.
With a little planning, training and exercising, your communications team can be transformed into seasoned crisis specialists. – Tim Archer, Head of Communications
Where do you start with crisis comms?
Keeping things less complicated is always a bonus, but we pride ourselves in programs that are straight forward and follow simple checklists to see where you’re at. A sanity check if you will.
We run the ruler across your Crisis Communications Plan and get to know your team. Understanding your current processes (or lack of them) allows us to then place a training program and modules that relate to you as a business, not just regulatory.
Often, we meet with your Head of Communications and Chief Risk Officer and understand your current media and communications capability. This then aligns to a full report.
But, you can do these steps yourself by simply gathering what you currently have, note down three possible events (Earthquake, lockdowns, cyber-attack), and locate the processes in place to communicate how your organisation is going to handle them. If there is nothing there, it’s time to consider some training either by outsourcing, or planning internally.
Get effective with a Crisis Communications Plan
All US Presidents have one. It’s a list of bullet points or green, amber, red responses to tricky questions during an interrogation by the media. These are regularly put together by experts who can know more than what most leaders do. Just watch The Final Year, a Netflix documentary about Barrack Obama’s final year as US President to get an understanding.
If you don’t have a dedicate individual/s to look after a response, or a dedicated plan, you’re going to be in deep water, very fast.
A slow or poor response can potentially escalate and exacerbate the reputational damage to an organisation. Let’s take the recent media feedback from many New Zealand schools and their care towards students. This year saw much criticism around principals having effective plans in place.
At RiskLogic, we don’t barge in and tell you you’re doing it wrong. We collaborate with the leaders and communications team to develop scripts and plans that match who the individual is. A PR agency for example will spend a lot of time considering the brand (which is worth doing), but no time getting to know the person who will be in front of the cameras. How confident are they?
Our user-friendly plans are transferable internally too. It’s a critical component to your wider Crisis Management Plan (that we merge for you), and ensures a strategic, methodical response.
Getting the training in is vital
The plans, strategies and objectives are all useless unless you practice them. We recently ran an exercise where, unbeknownst to our lead subject of the organisation (the CEO), a significant event had occurred that morning. Protestors formed outside one of his properties four hours before.
During the exercise (which involved real cameras, his team and real case studies), our Communications expert, Tim Archer carefully and gently walked through some basic, non-threatening questions. This CEO found himself slouching, relaxing and enjoying this unusual training.
“So, Mr. Smith, can you tell me about the protest going on at [location] right now?” Tim asks. “Yes, we managed to get on top of that an hour ago and have released a statement via social media”. Neither of that was true, in fact, the CEO realised that the information from the questioning was too specific for it to be a drill.
Tim kept drilling. Soon, this clients tough, resilient wall was beginning to crumble under the intense questioning. No plans had been discussed to cater for these very forward questions. Soon, in the safety of their training room, the session ended, providing significant review opportunities.
If you’re not sure where to start, just start here
Don’t put this on the backburner. It’s worth at least understanding if your organisation has even the minimum in place. If you find it’s well matured in media communications, then excellent, it’s time to test it – regularly.