The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for a crisis communications plan for businesses and organisations who may previously have overlooked this aspect of reputation management. It is easy to think “it will never happen to us”, but the global pandemic has served to highlight just how important it is to be prepared for the unexpected; whether that’s services impacted by a pandemic, poor media coverage, legal issues or quality control failings with products and services.
Fortunately, creating a crisis communications plan is relatively simple. This document could be a lifeline the next time a crisis hits by offering a considered framework to effectively communicate the issue to staff, your customers, and the media, with minimal loss of revenue, disruption, and damage to your business’s reputation.
Identify Potential Problems
When first forming a strategy for dealing with a crisis, you’ll need to play devil’s advocate and consider what could arise that may be problematic for yourself or your brand. Map out the worst-case scenario for each risk. You could ask your team for their input on where your company’s weaknesses lie in order to get a broad cross-section of potential issues to work with. For a crisis that can be avoided, work towards lowering the risk. For unprecedented situations or those out of your control, instead draft plans of how you would deal with the issue if it did arise.
Nominate A Spokesperson
The second step in creating a crisis communications plan is to appoint an individual to be the spokesperson. They will be responsible for communicating the situation during the crisis. The obvious option is to choose the company’s CEO, yet while it is essential they are visible during the crisis, the spokesperson has to be confident and be able to effectively communicate the issue to the media, including live or recorded interviews. If the CEO isn’t the best person for that job or is likely to be tied up elsewhere directing resources or allying investor fears, nominate someone else.
Create A Social Media Plan
Alongside an in-person response, many people now receive news from social media, so you must include a social media plan within your crisis communications strategy. Outline both the content you will put onto your social media channels, as well as how you’ll monitor your social channels as the crisis takes place. You should establish a social media team responsible for this to catch negative online content and respond professionally to minimise the damage to your company’s reputation.
Form a Crisis Resolution Team
You also need a team that works towards finding a solution to the crisis by targeting the root causes and stopping them in their tracks. It’s advisable to have some members of this unit drafted in from your financial and legal departments (or partners) to ensure speedy access to trusted advice in the event of legal proceedings or compensation or other financial settlements being required.
The best time to create a crisis communication plan is when there is no crisis ro be dealing with. Conversely, the worst time is when the business finds itself in the midst of a media storm and emotions are running high, especially when the press is contacting your organisation incessantly for a response or comment; all of which can lead to misunderstandings or misjudgements. This can have serious consequences to your organisation’s reputation.
If your business has come through a crisis and needs support in improving your online reputation then contact us in strictest confidence.