Just about every business knows they should have a crisis communications plan. When something goes wrong – your product hurts someone, a senior level employee passes away unexpectedly or your employee acts in a way not befitting your brand – you don’t want to be caught flat-footed. In the days of social media, it is even more important that you can react to a crisis swiftly and decisively instead of letting the hours of conspicuous silence stretch on. A little forethought in the area of crisis communications can go a long way in preparing you to act quickly when a crisis hits. Here are four tips to help you better equip you and your staff for an emergency.
Identify a Crisis Communications Team
When identifying your crisis communications team, many times the obvious people – such as your CEO and senior executives – will be the right people. But what if your CEO is unreachable, or is involved directly in the crisis? Come up with a plan to choose spokespeople in many scenarios so you’re not waiting by the phone when you should be acting. Once you’ve chosen your team, make sure all staff know who is responsible to speak in the event of a crisis, so your front line people can act confidently if they’re faced with a reporter’s questions, an angry customer or a worried shareholder.
Train Your Spokespeople
If you’ve never spoken to a television news team or a radio reporter before, you will be surprised how difficult it is to battle your nerves and get your message out clearly. When your company’s reputation is on the line, you want a spokesperson who is able to speak calmly and to appear authentic on camera. A bit of training will go a long way. You should consider hiring a public relations firm to conduct this training. We can also help you develop crucial public statements for the media.
Plan How You Will Get the Information Out
How will you release a statement if you’re faced with a crisis? What’s the best option? Who will write your public statements? When is a news release appropriate? Will you post on Twitter or Facebook? Do you have a place on your website to provide the media and public with the information they will inevitably be seeking? Do you have an email list that can quickly reach all your employees, customers or shareholders? Explore all your options for getting information out and make sure you have all passwords, instructions and lists stored and backed up in places that are easily accessible by those who will need to get information out quickly if a crisis should arise.
If there is a particular scenario in your industry that you especially want to prepare for – for example universities often want systems that can quickly alert students if there is a threat to their safety – you may want to write alert messages in advance and store an up-to-date list of email addresses and mobile phone numbers (for text messages). If you set up the lists and do the work in advance, when a situation arises, you need only fill in the pertinent details before you can get the information out to those who need it.
Listen to What People Are Saying About You
Set up listening systems in advance. Not only will they help you learn what people are saying about your brand, they will also alert you to a crisis as it happens, and keep you abreast of how people are receiving your message. Listening systems can be as easy as setting up Google Alerts, saved searches on Twitter and using sites such as Social Mention to do real time searches across social media platforms. Larger companies may wish to hire a media monitoring company which keeps a close eye on multiple media platforms.
Dooley Communications can help you develop a crisis communications plan whether you have a single office here in Winnipeg or operations across western and northern Canada. As one of Manitoba’s leading public relations firms, we know a crisis can hit anytime. If you’re in the middle of one, contact us now.