While the pandemic has thrown most of us for a loop, there’s no time like the present to prepare for the next imminent disaster, since it could strike with only a moment’s notice. A crisis of any size can result in damage to reputation, disruption of operations, and loss of revenue. So why wouldn’t you want to be prepared for the inevitable?
Brian Lee, APR, president of Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media, is here to help you create an effective crisis communication plan. In case you missed his virtual #SMBMad event in February, Crisis Communications Management: Preparing & Executing your Plan, we’re happy to share a few key takeaways.
Would you rather hear it right from the source? Watch Brian Lee’s event from Facebook Live on replay on our Facebook page video archive.
Better to be Prepared
Unexpected crises can disrupt every aspect of your business, leaving you behind to rebuild trust and re-establish the reputation you’ve worked so hard to create, while also trying to restore and improve operations.
We have no better example than what we’ve all been living through in the past year: the COVID-19 pandemic. How well were you prepared? Most of us weren’t, but we can learn from our mistakes. Today, we’re taking Brian’s words to heart and putting together our crisis communications plan so next time a crisis occurs, we can be prepared. But where to start?
Brian urges you to begin by examining your business. Look for vulnerabilities in current policies, develop potential crisis scenarios, and determine a target audience, both internally and externally. You can then assign roles and spokespeople to handle difficult situations. Rehearse potential crisis situations so everyone is aware of their immediate duties when an emergency arises. Being prepared with pre-written statements and procedures can better help you quickly de-escalate crisis situations.
Creating a Plan
Preparing for every scenario seems impossible, but you can plan for a variety of situations including violence, issues with staff, environmental and operational issues. While you may never encounter a natural disaster or shooting, most of us never imagined we’d be in the middle of a pandemic. Brian compares crisis communication management to having home insurance. It helps remind us that we’re better off safe than sorry and should be prepared for anything.
Create specific goals and strategies for each type of crisis, whether it’s returning to full operations within a matter of weeks, determining the source of your issue, or just being helpful to customers during the troubling time. While it may seem like too simple a task during a daunting situation, staying in regular communication, being understanding and providing ample information to customers and employees is extremely important.
When a Crisis Occurs
You may be eager to call the press first when a crisis occurs, but this shouldn’t be your initial outreach. Initial target audiences should include company employees and other internal audiences. Prioritize your team by letting them know how and what your organization is doing in response to the crisis situation.
After you’ve shared communications internally, move on to others in your community including customers, vendors and sponsors. Making sure that your internal audience is on the same page can greatly reduce the circulation of incorrect information.
Acknowledging the situation and sharing information with your audiences is vital to controlling your message. Don’t be afraid of the media or deny the situation. Even if you don’t know everything yet, share your progress. Let people know that you’re working on it. Strive for transparency and ensure that your business is conveying unity. Pause automatic ads and remove pre-scheduled content so as to not interrupt or affect important messaging.
Depending on the situation, you may have to update, amend, or even rewrite company policies and procedures to show how you will prevent the situation from happening again. Take accountability for any misconduct and make sure to accurately identify the victim(s) in the situation.
Instead, simply apologize. Show concern and be empathetic to the situation. An apology doesn’t necessarily mean that you were wrong or signal defeat. Don’t be arrogant or whine, demonstrate adjustments that will be made.
It’s better to be prepared for the unexpected than to be caught running in circles when catastrophe strikes. Be smart, listen to Brian, and get working on your crisis communication plan today.
Non-Profit Spotlight: Movin’ Out, Inc
Movin’ Out, Inc partners with people with disabilities, their families and allies to create and sustain community-integrated, safe, affordable homes. This organization offers information, advice, referrals and resources for home ownership, home repair for safety and accessibility, or rental housing for households with low to moderate incomes. The COVID -19 pandemic has increased the need for these services. Movin’ Out is working hard to raise money to help clients avoid losing their homes, and to make more safe, affordable, community-integrated homes available. Learn more and connect on Facebook @movinoutWI or at movin-out.org.
Thanks to SMBMad volunteer Grace Wilkie for writing this month’s event recap.