By Ross Coyle, Sr. Account Supervisor
In the current age of instant communications, it is more important than ever for an organization to have the communications mechanisms in place to control and effectively respond to a crisis or potential crisis situation as quickly as possible.
You should work with a PR team that has extensive experience with both preparing for and dealing with crisis communications situations. They should be available to assist in examining your existing emergency crisis communications plan – especially leading up to any major public event – and can develop additional recommendations should that be necessary. If and when a crisis situation occurs, the team should be available to assist your spokesperson(s) with providing clear and timely information to the public, media and other stakeholders.
The most important things one must do in any “crisis” situation is to get out accurate information as quickly as possible, respond to incorrect information that may be circulating and activate appropriate mechanisms to keep the public, media and stakeholders informed on an ongoing basis. The role of an effective crisis communications plan is all about protecting corporate reputations. So here a few tips to remember when a crisis strikes:
• Have a comprehensive crisis communications plan in place: Helps you maintain and enhance your corporate reputation.
• Respond in a quick, timely manner: The more you wait, the more damage can be done.
• Be quick, but be factual.
• Provide quick turnaround time on the drafting of press releases/statements when necessary: You don’t want the media going to other sources for information during the crisis.
• Recommend strategies to deal with potential negative press inquiries, information inquiries and other communications requirements for any planned incidents.
• Follow all proper notification procedures on a timely basis.
• All communications should go through one channel.
• Select a primary spokesperson to represent the organization throughout the crisis process.
• This primary spokesperson should present any official statements and answer questions from the media.
• Assign a designated back-up spokesperson to step in should the primary spokesperson be unavailable.
• Handle a crisis well and you can limit the negativity your organization faces in the long-term.
• Never say “No Comment” or speak “Off The Record”
• If applicable, your responses and actions should be focused on the victims’ needs.
• Don’t bury bad news.
• Discuss whether the crisis calls for a “video response” by the company spokesperson to give it a more personal touch.
During a crisis, a company’s key brand messages should be well-understood and agreed upon in advance, so that they can be conveyed clearly in the context of media interviews and customer communications. No one wants to hear marketing lingo.
It’s vital that initial information be kept simple, so the message for both the public and media is as clear as possible. Once the initial crisis phase has passed, providing more detailed background information for the media is also often important. Organizations that manage crisis effectively often improve their reputations, while those that don’t suffer lasting damage, so it pays to be prepared.