During our crisis communications training courses, one of the points that we make repeatedly is that time is of the essence. It’s essential when a crisis erupts or, ideally, before it does, to act quickly and to be prepared.
Here are five things that any organisation can do to ensure that its crisis communications strategy is in good shape before an incident takes place.
1. Internal before external
Before you think about external crisis communications, it’s essential to consider the internal element. Speaking to the media, customers, suppliers, and local communities is essential when something goes badly wrong, but you also need to ensure a two-way street of communication with your own teams and employees. We say two-way street because it may well be that these are the people that alert you to a crisis. In our crisis communications workshops, we make the point that all staff members need to know about the kind of incident that could spiral into a crisis. This might be account managers, customer service, agents, HR professionals, your IT department or even your reception and security staff. They should all be prepared to pass on information to senior management. Any incident that simply doesn’t look right to them. In 99 out of 100 cases, it probably won’t amount to anything, but at least you, as the leaders of the organisation, will be aware of that one thing that does, in fact, lead to a crisis.
2. Have a range of crisis statement templates ready to go.
Whether it’s a data leak, a fire, or an allegation of bullying or sexual harassment, you can have statements ready to go. Once you know more about the details of this particular incident, you can then amend your standardise statement to make it appropriate. Having these forms of words pre-approved will make drafting, approving and releasing them much faster and easier.
3. Make sure that your statement distribution lists are accurate and up-to-date.
In many situations, you’ll want to put your release out on social media and your website, but you might also want to email or text a statement to specific individuals and news organisations so that they know what is happening and, more importantly, that you’re aware of the situation and that you’re taking action to manage it and to protect and support any human beings involved.
4. Warn staff about social media and other conversations.
Your staff should also be aware of the risks involved in posting a comment on social media or talking to family and friends about the situation. If things are going badly wrong in your organisation, temperatures are flaring, and the tension is palpable, it can be tempting for people to want to let off steam and express their views. However, it’s essential to explain to them that this isn’t helpful to anyone. If they have thoughts and ideas, it would be better for staff to discuss them with their line manager and keep them within the organisation.
5. Keep your crisis communication strategy document up-to-date and freshen people’s minds.
After completing a crisis communications training course, the participants often thank us for the valuable advice we’ve given them, for making the scenarios realistic and even for giving them challenging – but realistic – interviews. In return, we always remind them that they need to review everything they’ve discussed and practice what we’ve taught them at least every few months. Not only that, but they need to do this with the participation of everybody within the organisation. You might have an excellent, comprehensive and carefully considered crisis communication strategy. Still, if it’s filed away somewhere on a computer and nobody has looked at it for two years, it won’t be much use when you suddenly need to put it into practice.
Communications Training Courses
We provide crisis communications training courses for all kinds of organisations, and we advise them on how to carry out media interviews and mitigate other risks that might expose them to negative media coverage. One of the points you make during these crisis communications workshops is that managing a crisis is difficult, but practice makes perfect, at least, as near perfect as you’ll ever be able to get in such situations.