We’re all far too familiar with the term “crisis” after everything this year’s thrown at us. Crisis communications is a key area of PR that may play out in a reactive way, but actually, is something that companies can and should plan ahead for.
Once the preserve of big multi-nationals, this year has shown that even small companies can be propelled into the spotlight, so it’s worth discussing what might need to be in place. I gave my comments in a crisis PR feature in this month’s South West Business Insider. As I said in the article, there’s no one-size-fits all response as your communications approach should vary with the kind of crisis you’re facing. However there are some golden rules as I’ve outlined below:
- As we’ve seen from 2020, things happen that are way beyond our control, but it’s definitely a good idea to anticipate challenges that might come up ahead of time and discuss responses. It’s best to broadly agree an approach ahead of time so there’s no in-fighting when crises hit. And make sure you check back in on your plans regularly as things can change quickly.
- In the face of an issue, firstly find out everything you can about the situation. Try not to let a story continue dripping out in stages. Get it all out in the open if you can.
- Keep messaging simple and try not to over-explain. It might mean a lot to you internally but don’t forget who your audience are and what they want and need to know. You don’t need to go into masses of detail if the audience want to know more about your response than the minutiae of what happened behind the scenes.
- Keep communicating and use all the means by which you usually do to communicate with your audience. They will look to your regular channels for your response.
- Be honest about what you know and you don’t know – cover-ups will be exposed and will only make the situation worse in the long run. It’s fine to say that you don’t have all the answers at that stage, but let them know how you’re trying to find out more and when that might be.
- Be ready to respond when comments or questions come in as they usually will – for example on social media. Be responsive – don’t just communicate and disappear.
- And finally, and very importantly – think carefully about your tone. Humour is rarely required in crises, but neither is a cold, robotic approach. Be human and sensitive about the situation you’re in, and that will go a long way.
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