We believe in sharing our best practices with the wider business community, and therefore provide an overview of what your organization should have in place to establish a strong reputation ahead of any issue, prepare for a crisis, respond to a crisis with timeliness and integrity, and ensure that you emerge with your reputation and business relationships intact.
This is important even without considering of crises. But should a crisis occur, having already established credibility will provide you a stronger foundation from which to operate.
Establishing credibility is important even without the potential of a crises. But should a crisis occur, having already established credibility will provide you a stronger foundation from which to operate.
- Generate awareness, establish reputation, function with transparency
- Make strategic communications a part of your everyday business
- Open lines of communications, including social media
- Keep your constituents – customers, consumers, investors, the board, affiliates – apprised of your business
- Establish a media policy that serves your organization and guides employees
- News announcements
- Media relations and relationships
- Community relations/causes
- Event participation
- Social media presence
- Web-based press room/website communications
- Customer newsletter and opt-in email updates
- Industry, expert and other third party alliances/ties
What are your organizations worst fears?
A labor strike, tainted product or an activist threat? Do you have a crisis plan in place? If so, does it have a communications component? Are your executives prepared to handle media inquiries of an aggressive nature? Are you prepared for a range of crises including financial, legal, product, operational and infrastructure? With whom would you align in a crisis? Fortunately, there’s much that can be done ahead of time to prepare for various scenarios that present potential threats to your business and reputation.
A key component of every contingency plan is crisis communications management. Be ready to communicate effectively and clearly with each constituency group within your sphere of influence – be they customers, employees, industry associations, government agencies or municipalities.
There are several levels of preparedness you can consider.
- Media Training will help you designate appropriate spokespeople, develop messaging, and prepare for press interviews. You would learn how to respond cogently and effectively.
- Communications Planning gives you the basic tools to create beneficial media opportunities, for example, getting out in front of an issue rather than functioning reactively. With communications planning, you establish a social media policy, a media policy, establish media visuals such as product shots and b-roll or video, establish media monitoring, involve third-party experts, craft FAQs, and establish search engine optimization practices.
- Disaster and Operational Planning is important for any organization, and is your strategy and set of tactics for dealing with contentious situations. This level of preparedness includes scenario planning, pre-drafted position statements, a message action plan for all audiences, plans for a hotline, prepared fact-gathering questions, relocation alternatives, a pre-formatted web page that can provide custom messages and information, and contact rosters.
- Table Top Drills are intensive exercises. They prepare you in a number of ways: Clarify roles and responsibilities, identify actions and enhance the decision-making process for implementation of industry guidelines in the event of a crisis. These exercises identify issues for management that guide further development of protocols, procedures, training and policy making. Table Top Drills are opportunities to review how to transition into an Emergency Organization as outlined in Emergency Response Plans in accordance with your Emergency Management System. Very quickly, roles and responsibilities are clarified.
PANTCHEK is a handy acronym to remember what must be kept in mind when managing communications in a crisis situation.
- Public welfare is first priority
- All bad news out at once/Assemble the facts
- No blame, no speculation, do not repeat the charges
- Tell your side of the story/Take responsibility
- Care and concern
- High-level organization spokesperson
- Ensure that it will not happen again
- Keep separate plan for moving ahead
There are several basic “dos” when it comes to crisis communications:
- Provide information to the outside; update key personnel
- Establish organization spokesperson; speak only on behalf of the organization
- Keep checklists and key documents easily available
- Updated media lists
- Refer legal issues to attorneys, medical issues to doctors, investigative issues to appropriate authorities
- Stay calm; stay positive
- Show care, concern, empathy
In a crisis situation, the “dont’s” are just as important:
- Avoid discussion of blame and liability
- No unnecessary information
- Do not release names of injured until next of kin are notified
- Spokesperson does not extemporize, go off message
- Do not speculate; do not estimate
- Do not permit press to wander unescorted; do not allow access when safety cannot be guaranteed
- Do not say “no comment”
- Do not put anything in writing or emails that you wouldn’t want to see in the WSJ the next day
Here are the best case procedures to implement in urgent, reputation-threatening situations:
- Effective alert system
- Strong online and offline strategy
- Keep Communications in the loop; frequent and regular updates
- Monitor, evaluate, respond
- Openly communicate with approved position statements at the ready
- Staff follows company media (including social media) policy
- Call on third party expert alliances and relationships
- On the spot Scenario Planning for each new development
- Media trained spokesperson(s), continually test organization messages
- Online and offline go-to resource for information at your fingertips
- Multi-channel communications for different audiences
- Video and/or photos helping to tell your story
- Take the high road in tone; strive for “good guy” positioning
- Do not fall prey to “we can’t get a fair break” thinking, even when unjustly accused
Managing your way through is not the end result or goal.
Should you have a crisis situation, you need to recover from it with your reputation undamaged, your brand respected, and your relationships intact.
Diligence in the reputation-rebuilding process is important to maintain because, depending on the nature and duration of the crisis, progress may be long-term.
There are several tactics to take to ensure recovery from a crisis with your reputation, brand and business not just surviving, but thriving.
- Maintain open level of communication with media, community, customers, consumers, investors, governing bodies, affiliates
- Employ awareness tactics
- Differentiate your organization from the pack
- Become a category expert amongst your peers
- Conduct “post mortem” analysis and incorporate what’s been learned in future crisis and scenario planning
Building trust to get you the benefit of the doubt is done long before you need it for a crisis, making establishing credibility a critical component of an ongoing business strategy.