Crisis communication is basically a subset of public relations that deals with protecting an individual or organisation from damage to their reputation.
Indeed, a company sometimes has to deal with events that could have negative effects on its image or its products. Today, the media and public opinion are of great importance in the reputation and sustainability of a company. In the event of a crisis, it is therefore essential to find solutions to improve the company’s image in the eyes of the media, public opinion, and all stakeholders. Dealing with a crisis is a bit like firemen trying to put out a fire: you must be always ready because every minute counts.
Crisis Communication Tactics
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.
We, therefore, anticipate as much as possible, by preparing our crisis communication plan in advance. It is this preparation that differentiates a brand that recovers quickly from a brand that gets bogged down in the crisis. This plan must be updated regularly, in light of new problematic situations that may arise, the aim being to have the communication ready when it is most needed.
In this phase, creating a crisis management team is also an essential task, remembering to identify each other’s field of action in the event of a critical situation. 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. There are usually warning signs, so-called weak signals, that precede it. It is these signs that must be identified in order to be able to mitigate or even avoid the crisis.
During this phase, the crisis hits and there is no turning back. The important thing when a crisis occurs is to remain calm: avoiding excess stress will help you to control the situation better and reassure your teams that they will be more serene. 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 can make the right decisions: what will be said, what is the brand’s position, which channel will you use, which one will you choose to share your message and who will say it, who will be the spokesperson? The spokesperson must be chosen carefully and must meet three criteria: he or she must be technically credible, hierarchically legitimate and media acceptable.
“The companies that do well in a crisis situation are those that take an ethical stance. Managers must be humble in the face of a crisis and demonstrate an ability to assess and react quickly.”
The crisis management team should also issue a message about the crisis, both internally and externally. Not only should you inform your employees of the situation, but also your customers: inform them of how you intend to solve the problem and be transparent. This is a particularly crucial phase of crisis management with the organisation possessing absolutely no margin for error. Secondly, it is important to know and understand what happened and, above all, to measure the impact it will have on your company, your brand image, your reputation, your customers, and your revenue.
This occurs when the crisis is over, or at least under control. It entails reviewing the successes and failures of the management team to make amendments to personnel, processes, or methods where necessary and disseminating follow-up crisis messages as deemed necessary by the crisis management team.
“The information gathered during and after the crisis will help to anticipate and understand future crises.”
The web and social media will need to be constantly monitored for any memorials of the crisis published online. Because of their characteristics, social networks can amplify a problematic situation: a crisis can therefore quickly take on disproportionate proportions and a bad buzz can quickly occur. It is therefore essential to monitor the brand’s presence on these channels to be immediately alerted to any negative signals.
Also, victims of the crisis should be contacted and appropriate actions which may include a recall, compensation, or any other means necessary should be taken. Every crisis is different, and it may be that despite the best preparation in the world, your brand has had difficulty weathering the storm. Only a thorough post-crisis analysis can help you avoid a repeat. These lessons will also allow you to adjust your communication and crisis management for the future.
Fighting the crisis
In order to fight the crisis and its effects, 4 actions can be taken by brands, namely:
• Inform: the public often fills in the gaps with misconceptions. The organisation has the responsibility of providing correct information as regards the crisis.
• React quickly: The organisation must react swiftly before the damage done becomes irreparable.
• Taking responsibility: 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.
• Anticipate: anticipate and consider possible rumours and complaints in order to anticipate a negative amplification of the situation or a potential future crisis.
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. Good preparation, even before a crisis looms, is the best way for a brand to recover quickly. To best anticipate a problematic situation, you need to be on the lookout for weak signals, and only increased surveillance and an effective monitoring strategy can alert you.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it. – Warren Buffet
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.