It’s always the first port of call when we see a car crash scenario play out public – “call in the crisis communications team” or “good luck with the crisis comms”.
However, crisis communications isn’t necessarily all about the big brands making a major faux pas. All businesses should have a robust crisis communications plan tucked away for a day we hope will never come.
A wise man once used the phrase to me “fix the hole in the roof while the sun shines” and these words are incredibly pertinent when it comes to crisis communication for business.
Whether it be reputation management on social media or a crisis threatening to engulf the tabloids, the team here at R&Co are experts in managing a crisis.
Why crisis communications is important
I’ve had many a crisis of confidence over the years, however, the type of crises we’re talking about are those which can affect your business – reputational problems which have the potential to damage your brand negatively in eyes of both consumers and colleagues.
Therefore, that hole in the roof, which is fine while the weather’s clear, should always be fixed before the rainclouds break by putting together a comprehensive crisis communications strategy.
In troubled times, crisis communication plans serve as vital blueprints for an organisation, allowing it to respond quickly and effectively, safe in the knowledge it has already done the initial hard work.
Formulate your crisis communications plan
So, we know you need a crisis communications plan – but what does that actually mean?
There are differing levels of crisis, across multiple industries, but as a broad brushstroke approach, it’s wise to have a short, catch-all holding statement prepared and saved on file.
It’s advisable not to go into too much detail in this initial statement. Just one or two lines to acknowledge there is a situation to which you are responding appropriately.
This ensures you will not get the dreaded “did not comment” line in any press articles, while also not giving away any information you may wish you hadn’t done later down the line.
It also gives you time to conduct a thorough review into what has (or hasn’t!) happened. This not only applies to press enquiries, but also to social media complaints or allegations. A short, standard reply to try to take the complaint offline and show other platform users you have acknowledged it.
In these days of multi-platform accessibility, burying your head in the sand and hoping a crisis will go away won’t really cut it!
This approach can then be used to inform a wider crisis communications plan, detailing key stakeholders, a range of reactive statements and what process to follow if the worst happens.
Proactive vs reactive crisis communications
As well as having an initial short crisis communications statement drafted and ready to go as a reactive measure, it is also worth identifying a spokesperson for the business – whether that’s a name and rank attributed to a written crisis communications statement or to be put up in front of the cameras.
If you identify a spokesperson and there is likely to be broadcast media interest, it would be wise to ensure they have media training, something we offer here at R&Co.
The world of broadcast journalism can be daunting to anyone not used to it, so it’s vital whoever speaks to camera or into a microphone is composed and clear in getting your (pre-approved) message across.
Proactive crisis communications
There is also a proactive crisis communications approach to consider – if you know something negative about your business is about the break, it may be worthwhile thinking about trying to counteract it by getting in there first to control the narrative.
This is a ploy often used by celebs who are about to hit the front page of a red top – your version of events can be a powerful tool to combat negative press before it hits the headlines or social feeds.
So, to round up – give yourself a chance to get all the facts to react in good time or even ahead of time. Have a short holding statement prepared and approved by key stakeholders.
Ensure you have people who know they will be called upon should a crisis arise and invest in media training, as you never know when you might need it!
Review your handling of the crisis communications
Following any PR crisis, you should run a review of your crisis communications. Discuss what you did well and what could have been done differently. Review your holding statement to ensure it’s still relevant and fit for purpose.
You can then resume your usual PR and marketing activities, shifting the conversation back to good news from your business and re-establishing your positive reputation.
The team here at R&Co is made up of former journalists and experienced PR professionals and we are on hand if you would like support to put together a comprehensive crisis communications plan for your business.