Teresa Hansen, WeiserMazars
Picture this: it is 3:00 p.m., the workday is more than halfway over and you are about to get up for that afternoon caffeine jolt when the phone rings. It is a journalist from your local business journal asking you to confirm whether a tip they received about your firm is true. Congratulations! You have officially entered the crisis zone. So what do you do? About a million thoughts are running through your head right now, one being, “Is this actually true?”
This is where you would consult your crisis communication plan. However, many firms may not have one in place. Planning ahead for this moment is crucial. The tips below can help you begin creating a plan or help you refresh your current plan.
Why is it Important to Have an Effective Crisis Communication Plan?
Knowing what to do in a crisis and having a plan in place allows you to be proactive rather than reactive. Being proactive is the number one differentiator between those who handle a crisis effectively and those who do not.
Like an integrated marketing campaign, an effective crisis communication plan has many elements. Some (not all) of these are:
- Preparedness – do your research & make sure you understand the who, what, where, when, why, & how of the situation
- Transparency – being transparent in your messaging establishes credibility
- Communication – communicating with key audiences also will establish credibility & allow people to have faith that the situation is being handled
- Proactiveness – acknowledging there is a problem & providing regular updates allows you to stay ahead of the situation
In the event a crisis becomes a reality for your firm, communication is key. Communication for marketers is easy right? Maybe, maybe not. In a crisis, even the most seasoned communicators may need to review your firm’s crisis communication strategy. In 2016, news travels fast and there are so many different communication channels – you must be aware of how to get your message across.
Effectively Communicating During a Crisis
- Identify who your key audiences are: consumers, clients, employees, the media, etc.
- Establish your key message: depending on the audience & or communication platform, the message may have to be tweaked; however, all messages should be consistent & fall in line with the same overall message; keep your message simple and get to the point quickly
- Identify a spokesperson: there needs to be someone who can be the ‘face’ of the firm; the person who will answer questions from the media as well as handle interviews
- Monitor social media activity: during a crisis, your firm may take on attacks via social media where everyone has a voice; it might be beneficial to have a dedicated individual monitoring company social media outlets to field these attacks & reply with the key message developed for the crisis
Putting Together a Crisis Communication Plan
After reading this article, you may think it is time to have a crisis communication plan in place should the unthinkable happen. Here are a few key things to consider when putting your plan together:
- Establish a crisis committee within your firm. These folks will ultimately be responsible for creating the crisis communication plan and implementing it, should a crisis strike. This committee will identify the key audiences and company spokesperson.
- Identify the various types of crises that could affect your firm and put together checklists on how to handle each item.
- Do your research. There is information readily available on how to handle a crisis. Do your research and get ideas as to what might work best for your firm.
I hope that you never have to implement a crisis communication plan, but, it is better to be prepared than not. Many organizations have lost years of credibility and hard work by not being prepared in the event of a crisis – do not let that happen to you!