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Is your business prepared for a crisis?

March 5, 2018 | News

Crisis communication management is all about protecting your business’ reputation and, ultimately, its future. Well-planned issues and crisis communication is essential to navigating challenging times, ensuring your company’s survival, and planning for its future growth.

It can be easy to neglect crisis planning when day to day operations take up your time. But don’t bad things only happen to other people?

Sadly not.

Fortunately, help is at hand from Absolute’s team of trained crisis communications specialists. We’ve compiled some key questions to ask yourself about your business to help you plan ahead.

Question 1: What risks does your business face and where could they originate?

Many events that constitute a crisis can seem a bit far-fetched in the stark light of day. But the unlikeliness of an event is no indication of the potential severity of its impact.

For instance, KFC probably didn’t foresee that, a matter of days into a new logistics contract, it would be forced to close hundreds of outlets due to a shortage of chicken.

Revelations about the behaviour of Oxfam personnel in Haiti triggered a wave of further scandals across the third sector that will leave a legacy on charities for years to come.

KFC, Oxfam and several other charities found their reputations threatened and the trust of the public dented as a result of unforeseen events. Could this happen to you?

Question 2: How could you prevent a crisis from happening?

A crisis often results from a smaller incident that has been allowed to escalate. Co-ordinated, timely and appropriate communications may stop an incident in its tracks before it reaches crisis proportions, minimise the damage and accelerate your recovery.

When United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement following the infamous ‘re-accommodation’ of a Chinese passenger, the firm missed an opportunity to win back its customers. Munoz failed to acknowledge the depth of public emotion surrounding the incident, attracting further anger and ridicule, harming UA’s reputation.

On the other hand, when four people were seriously injured on Alton Towers’ newly launched Smiler ride in 2015, the park’s owner was quick to accept responsibility. Merlin CEO Nick Varney proved to be an empathetic spokesperson, delivered an apology to everyone affected, and promised reparative and future preventative action. The incident was serious, but when Merlin responded in a sensitive manner, it helped to safeguard its reputation as a caring family entertainment company.

Question 3: How quickly will you be able to act in a crisis?

In a digital world, businesses can’t hide from their problems. It will be a matter of hours, or even minutes, before an issue surfaces in the public sphere. It will happen even quicker if the crisis originates via social media, email or text because the material is sharable.

One of the most important factors in your response to a crisis is speed. How will you co-ordinate information and involve everyone who needs to be briefed when time is of the essence? How will you assign tasks to your crisis team?

The key to a speedy and co-ordinated response is a thorough crisis or issues communications plan. A plan sets out the actions you will take in response to a situation, and assign individual responsibility and accountability. It should outline possible scenarios to help your nominated spokespeople prepare for their role. It should also include draft statements, ready to be edited to reflect the nature of the emerging crisis. When the plan takes effect, your crisis team can spring into well-choreographed action, handling key tasks and sharing information in a timely manner.

Question 4: How will you reach out to your audiences effectively?

You know who your audiences are and which communication channels are most effective in reaching them. In a crisis situation, this doesn’t change.

If your audience is highly engaged on social media, a statement to the local newspaper won’t reach them. Use the relevant social media channels. If your crisis is likely to impact on your community, a blog on your website isn’t visible enough to people who aren’t already engaged with your brand. In this case, you might need to reach out to the local media.

Select the communication channels that are most appropriate for your audiences.

When pressure mounts, it can be tempting to do what seems quick and convenient, but the objective in a crisis is to retain your audiences’ trust in your organisation. It is worth the effort to get your messaging right. Whether that means co-ordinating interviews with several media outlets, or creating and publishing a video statement, the goal is to be effective and timely.

Question 5: How will you recover?

The eye of the storm has passed. What next?

Debrief your team immediately after the crisis. Explore what went well (relatively speaking!), what you would do differently next time, and plan your next steps. This is best done while the experience is fresh in everyone’s minds.

The crisis may have been acute and left little lasting impression, or it might require ongoing damage limitation over the coming months – or even years. The immediate aftermath is the time to evaluate your position, review your key messages and plan how you will rebuild trust with your audiences in the short and long-term.

Be prepared

Planning for a crisis might feel like investing in an insurance policy you never claim on. But – like an insurance policy – if the time comes to put your crisis communications into action, the time and resources you invested in planning it will pay dividends.

For help planning your crisis or issues communications strategy or for some free advice call us today on 01392 680740 or email