A Beginners Guide to Crisis Communication Plans
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, spokesperson training 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.
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 in their organization 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.
When should a crisis communications plan be put into effect?
Crisis management plans are implemented by organizations and businesses to help them protect their reputation, build and maintain trust with stakeholders, and respond quickly and effectively during challenging situations and pivotal moments . A crisis communication plan should be built through a collaborative process drawing on the perspective and expertise of key leaders and decision-makers throughout an organization who can inform the plan and even provide time-saving, pre-approved templated language you may need to use in a given situation.
What are the benefits of having a crisis communications plan?
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 important stakeholders 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 efficient and effective crisis planning and communication can help any organization overcome reputational risks and preserve goodwill among its key stakeholders.
What makes a crisis communications plan effective?
An effective crisis communications plan should include a detailed strategy outlining the steps and roles of each party involved in making decisions for the organization. It should provide clear guidance on how to respond to a crisis, and also anticipate potential risks or challenges that could arise.
An effective plan should also contain measures that can be taken in order to prevent crises from occurring in the first place, as well as steps taken to mitigate any damage that might result from a crisis.
The last part of a crisis communications strategy, aside from preparedness and responses, are to include strategies for monitoring and evaluating its effectiveness after the fact in order to ensure that it is adequately addressing reputational risks.
Crisis scenario examples
Crisis communications can be used in a variety of situations, from natural disasters to product recalls. Here are some examples of scenarios where crisis communications might be necessary:
- An organization is accused of unethical business practices
- A major security breach results in customer information being compromised
- A company’s product is linked to a health hazard
- A natural disaster affects the operations of an organization
- An organization is accused of racial or gender discrimination in hiring practices
- Negative news coverage paints a company in a bad light
- A data breach exposes confidential information
- A public figure connected to an organization makes controversial statements
In any of these scenarios, an organization can use crisis communications to respond to the situation and protect its reputation.
How prevalent are crises within organizations?
If you’re wondering whether or not your organization needs to develop a crisis preparedness and response plan, consider the following:
- Organizations face an average of 25 reputational risks per year.
- 33% of companies identify inadequate crisis communications plans as a significant risk to their organization.
- 78% of organizations report they are not very or not at all prepared for a potential crisis.
These statistics demonstrate the importance of having a well-crafted and comprehensive crisis communications plan in place that can be used to address any potential reputational risks. A crisis is generally completely unexpected; therefore, you never know when it’s going to be necessary, as it can happen in any organization at any time.
10 questions to ask before and during a crisis response
When developing a strategy when dealing with a crisis and communicating with media personnel, stakeholders, employees and the public, you may want to run through the following checklist:
- Have you developed a team to manage the crisis, adjust and assess media relations, create messaging and coordinate communication?
- Are you monitoring your social media channels for any potential threats or comments that need responding to?
- Have you crafted messages that respond to the crisis quickly and accurately? [This should be done using pre-approved templates for all responses]
- Are you actively engaging with stakeholders and the public to explain how you are addressing the crisis?
- Do your messages convey empathy and understanding for those impacted by the situation?
- Are you taking steps to correct any misinformation that’s been spread about your organization?
- Have you created a timeline of when key messages should be sent out, and do they follow the “right” order?
- Do you have a plan in place to manage media requests and inquiries?
- Are you using data, analytics, and insights to track the impact of your communications efforts?
- Are you prepared to provide additional resources or support if needed?
Crisis management strategies
A key member of the organization should be identified as the primary spokesperson for media inquiries and other public appearances. This person should be well-versed in the organization’s policies and procedures, and have a working knowledge of the situation.
Media relations should be managed proactively to ensure that the organization is able to provide accurate information about the crisis in a timely manner. It’s important to develop relationships with members of the media before crises happen so that they can be contacted quickly when a situation arises.
Organizations should monitor their social media channels for comments, questions, and concerns that may arise during a crisis. Social media can be used to respond swiftly to inquiries and provide accurate information in order to mitigate risk.
Data analytics can be used to monitor the effectiveness of a crisis planand track public sentiment about an organization. This can help inform decisions about messaging, media relations, and other communications in order to optimize outcomes.
Crisis communications is an ever-evolving field that requires quick thinking and strategic decision-making. An effective crisis communications plan can help organizations weather internal and external challenges, protect their reputation, and preserve goodwill among key stakeholders. By staying prepared for potential risks and having a strategy in place to respond efficiently, organizations can make sure they are ready to face any crisis.
AKCG Public Relations Counselors are experts in crisis communication management. We specialize in developing comprehensive crisis communication plans that are tailored to each organization’s specific needs. Contact us today and let us help you create a solid plan for success.