A crisis is a disruptive event that may damage an organisation’s reputation if it is not handled correctly. So crisis communication is the effort which a company takes to communicate with its stakeholders and the public in order to protect the organisation from any negative impact. It’s crucial that organisations have a strong and effective crisis communication strategy in place to ensure they can tackle any issues which may arise.
The Cobra: A sudden crisis which hits the organisation and takes the company by surprise or catches them off guard! The organisation is left in a ‘crisis situation’.
The Python: A slow-burning crisis which is made up of a collection of issues which sneak up one by one and eventually crush the company.
It’s difficult to tell when a crisis may occur within a company, so it’s very important for companies to do all they can to be prepared for a wide range of potential crises. Crises types include:
Having a crisis communications strategy in place to tackle any issues which may arise will help to prevent a company’s reputation from being damaged.
A crisis, whether big or small, can have a negative impact on a company and its brand image. Organisations spend years building up a good reputation, but a crisis can damage this forever. Having a strategic crisis communication plan in place helps to reduce misinformation and ensures an effective communication flow between the company and its stakeholders and the public.
When creating a crisis communication strategy, it is important that organisations consider the following key points:
Can stakeholders gain access to important and relevant information? Is the organisation sharing as much information as possible to their stakeholders or are they hiding skeletons in the closet?
Is the organisation ensuring that all stakeholders are reached? If so, it’s important to note that not all stakeholders should be contacted in the same way. Separate and different communication methods should be used for certain stakeholder groups. For employees, methods of communication such as text messages, phone calls, intranet use, app alerts etc may be used. Whereas for customers and the public, communication methods such as announcements via social media channels, emails or public announcements may be used; dependent upon the crisis and the organisation’s crisis comms strategy.
Consistency is key. When communicating during a crisis, it is absolutely crucial that the organisation is consistent with its messages. Employees and customers will lose trust in the company if different messages are being communicated to different individuals.
There is nothing worse than an organisation that tries to cover its tracks when a crisis strikes. Organisations should devise a transparent crisis comms strategy and maintain transparent at all times, even when a crisis has not struck. Not being transparent will cause the organisation’s reputation to spiral downwards very quickly. Updates should also be sent out as soon as the organisation is made aware of any changes; this will hopefully show stakeholders that the company is being transparent and honest throughout the crisis.
Full apology – Accepting responsibility or culpability for the crisis
Remediation – Simply apologising for the crisis and accepting the blame
Repentance – Asking for forgiveness. The organisation apologises for the crisis and asks stakeholders and the general public to forgive its misdeeds.
Rectification – Taking corrective action to prevent a recurrence of the crisis
When devising a crisis comms strategy, you might want to ask yourself:
o Who is our spokesperson?
o How are we communicating with affected customers?
o Do we need to have a media statement ready?
o Should we put out a press release?
o Which internal teams need to be looped into the conversation?
o How do we minimise the impact this incident has on our customers?
This ensures that all aspects of the crisis and what to do when a crisis strikes are covered, so employees feel confident and ready to tackle the issues effectively.
Social media is a vital aspect of crisis communications and there are many advantages to using social media channels to communicate with the public during a crisis. Social media allows you to communicate quickly and allows organisations to respond to a large audience within minutes or even seconds. Regular monitoring of social media channels can help serve as an early warning system for identifying pending disasters. Likewise, social media can also have a very negative effect on a company during a crisis. It is extremely difficult to control what people say and share online as it is their own choice and free will. Individuals could be sharing inaccurate and damaging information; this results in organisations not seeming transparent and therefore, losing the trust of the public and their customers.
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