One of the most important elements to managing a brand’s reputation is building and maintaining a healthy and trustworthy relationship with its audiences. In today’s current media relations landscape, it has become more crucial than ever to effectively, and authentically, communicate with the people that matter most to you and your organization. In an era of cancel culture, it can be challenging to preserve the trust of the public when a brand’s reputation encounters a negative occurrence. In these moments, a brand uses crisis communications to address the situation and retain the goodwill it has with its stakeholders.
What is Crisis Communications?
Crisis communications is the preparation and distribution of information needed to address and resolve a challenging situation. A crisis is any situation that has the ability to escalate and have a negative impact on an organization. Regardless of the size of this impact (or size of the issue), it is important to prepare for potential threats that involve a company’s reputation. Individuals usually associate crisis communications with “damage control,” measures taken to minimize the negative impact on a brand’s public image. While crisis communications work to protect the reputation of a brand facing a public challenge, it is also needed to build and maintain the trust the brand has with its audiences. During challenging situations, the main goal in crisis communications is to effectively disseminate a communications strategy to key audiences in order to resolve a crisis situation and make actionable decisions. Though crises cannot always be prevented, crisis communications also work to help brands anticipate and plan for potential crises. To achieve this, crisis communications consist of two main segments in effective reputation management: Crisis Preparedness and Crisis Response.
Organizations may not always be able to gauge when a crisis situation will occur. In any event, it is important to always be prepared to address a crisis if and when it arises. Crisis preparedness allows organizations to anticipate a crisis and properly plan for it. In the crisis preparedness stage, crisis communications focus on monitoring for reputational risks and devising communication strategies to effectively address these risks. This approach will enable organizations to communicate effectively with internal and external audiences when the time comes. Through risk assessments, planning and training, organizations can avoid or mitigate the impact of a potential crisis. Should a crisis escalate, a crisis preparedness plan will be implemented in the crisis response phase.
How an organization responds to a crisis is just as important as the preparation for it. Crisis response is the immediate communication with target audiences, following a crisis, to provide information and safeguard the reputation of an organization. In most crisis situations, the goal in a response is to maintain the trust an organization has with its audiences. The steps composed in the communications strategy will aid in managing communications with internal and external audiences during this time.
In advance of and during a crisis, crisis communications work to strategically maintain the reputation and relationships a brand has built against the countless threats or challenges it may face. It has become a guide for communications and PR professionals to use when navigating internal and external challenges. Every brand has a reputation to uphold, and sound crisis planning and swift communication can help any organization overcome reputational risks and preserve goodwill among its key stakeholders.