Crisis communication is basically a subset of public relations that deals with protecting an individual or organisation from damage to reputation. Traditional public relations tries to seek positive attention from stakeholders, the media, and the general populace but crisis communications can be viewed as a reverse of this. It seeks to divert negative attention away from the individual, company or organisation and strives to maintain the reputation of the organisation in crisis situations. It is analogous to putting out a fire.
This phase is all about prevention, after all, there wouldn’t be a need to put out a fire that never broke out in the first place. It involves identification of crisis risks specific to the organisation and creating a sound and regularly updated crisis management plan.
Creating a crisis management team is also an essential task in the pre-crisis phase. Exercises to test the plan and team should be created at least annually and some crisis statement templates should be pre-drafted. These help an organisation react speedily and definitively if a crisis eventually occurs.
This phase comes up when the crisis hits. The first step is the identification of the occurrence as a crisis by the crisis management team, the gathering of pertinent information concerning the crisis so that the management team is able to make informed decisions and the release of crisis messages both internally and externally. This is a particularly crucial phase of crisis management with the organisation possessing absolutely no margin for error.
This occurs after the fire has been put out, or at least under control. It entails reviewing the successes and failures of the management team in order to make amendments to personnel, processes or methods where necessary and disseminating follow-up crisis messages as deemed necessary by the crisis management team. Internet channels should be scanned for online memorials and media outlets should be constantly monitored. Victims of the crisis should be contacted and appropriate actions which may include a recall, compensation or any other means necessary should be taken.
The Crisis Management Triangle
The analogy used earlier likens a crisis to a fire. The analogy can be continued in crisis management. There are basically three components to any fire; fuel, heat, and oxygen. Removing any component effectively stops the fire. Firefighters spray water to remove the heat component and carbon dioxide containing extinguishers displace oxygen. A similar triangle could be constructed for crisis management although all the components have to work together here to ensure effective crisis management.
The fuel component here is what the organisation did or what was done to the organisation that’s responsible for the crisis, the heat component is the tide of public opinion, online comments, media reports etc. that keep the fire burning. The speed of your reaction towards the crisis can be likened to the oxygen component.
Fighting the Fire
- Knowledge is the equivalent of denying fuel for the fire. The public often fills the knowledge gap with misconceptions. The organisation has the responsibility of providing correct information as regards the crisis.
- The speed of reaction is equivalent to denying the crisis oxygen. The organisation must react swiftly before the damage done becomes irreparable.
- Ownership involves denying the fire of the heat. The organisation should step out of the shadows and assume responsibility for the crisis. They should state what they did wrong and their plans for fixing the problem.
Finally, it is always easier and better to put out budding or small fires, as compared to full blown fires. Thus, crisis communication tactics and crisis management skills must be employed swiftly and effectively to ensure the reputation of the organisation is maintained.
Auxipress’ experienced crisis management team can help you with this. By tracking all leaked information and using media intelligence to affirm public opinion, we’re able to define a solid, well-structured strategy to help you put out the fire in the blink of an eye. Get in touch with our account managers for more information.