There are countless best practices for crisis communications management and it is good to be familiar with them. Among the most essential are to be honest and have a plan. There also are unique aspects to each crisis that are important to consider if you have professional responsibilities associated with crisis and reputation management.
The following tips may seem basic, but they are essential:
Be connected. It is your responsibility to be accessible and responsive to communications associated with your business, organization or brand. I have had more than one vacation affected by a perceived crisis at work. Some have been all hands-on deck issues while others clearly did not rise to the level of crisis. Regardless, you or your designee must be connected and able to “jump in” on a moment’s notice.
Identify those who need to be involved, preferably in advance of a situation. Crisis situations almost always catch us off-guard. When they occur, having a crisis team in place – and defining their roles – will save valuable time. Assuming team members possess the requisite skills, responsibilities can be assigned as the situation necessitates. It is critical that involved parties be apprised of the situation and convene immediately. Keep in mind that some people, who are capable in many situations, do not handle crises well.
Communications discipline is essential. Lines of communication to significant audiences must be established. Prioritize stakeholder communications and make certain you are aware of each audiences’ relative concerns associated with the situation. Rumors run rampant, especially in today’s communication environment. Understand your audiences and how to communicate with them or your actions could cause confusion and, possibly, create the crisis you are seeking to avoid.
Assess your business’ unique situation. Not all crises are the same and, even with advance preparation, they do not follow a playbook. Have a plan, practice it and, as mentioned earlier, know your internal and external audiences. Depending on the severity of the situation and its various complexities, no one person will hold all the answers. Assemble the core crisis team and identify additional individuals who can add valuable insight. Working together in a collaborative manner will provide the best outcomes.
Listen but do not get paralyzed by “the noise.” Everyone has an opinion during a crisis. It is important to monitor news reporting and stakeholder perception and, perhaps, adjust communications strategy, but you cannot get caught-up in reacting or overreacting each time someone thinks they have “the answer.” Gathering facts, making solid decisions, and communicating honestly and effectively are vital. Even though an organization’s or company’s crisis response may be second-guessed afterwards, being paralyzed by “the noise” and influenced by “armchair quarterbacking” may lead to poor decision-making. Devote time after the event to review decision-making, assess best practices and adjust as necessary.
These are by no means the only things to know or remember to manage effectively during a crisis. They are, however, things you do not want to forget.