Work with them, not against them: a guide to PR crisis communications
It’s surprising how many businesses don’t have a crisis communications strategy or have even defined what a crisis situation would look like. What would your business do if there was a major security incident in one of your company offices, or a major fire at one of your largest supply chain manufacturers or an unfortunate accident, for example?
A crisis isn’t something that just affects profits: it’s a circumstance that can have significant reputational risk. How your senior team responds and manages to a crisis can actually help to boost a brand’s reputation.
Here are some top tips on getting the most from your crisis communications plan.
Develop a framework to manage crisis situations in “peacetime”
Business as usual is the best time to plan and understand what a crisis looks like for your business from a profit and reputational perspective. What is the worst-case scenario and what are the external factors which can impact all potential crisis outcomes?
Consider the year ahead, implement a core crisis team and develop a risk matrix to plot out and gauge potential risks and make a firm commitment to review the risk matrix every year.
Select your spokespeople wisely
The media can create a ‘victim versus villain’ scenario, but giving the facts quickly and offering a rapid response ensures that you have your say. You want to avoid an ‘empty chair’ scenario as this can look suspicious, as though you have something to hide.
Your spokesperson needs to be relatable, empathetic, confident and competent.
Make sure they are well presented, well dressed and have experience speaking to the media. And always have a back-up in the wings to bring out when interview fatigue sets in during a long-term crisis.
Work with the media, not against them
It’s the role of the media to portray all sides of the story. But remember you and your business are the experts within your industry – so be confident in explaining the facts to give the insight needed to make a story fair and accurate.
Journalists are often looking for a 17 – 20 second grabs, so don’t be afraid to hammer home your key messages, said in a slightly different way every time.
If journalists come directly to your place of work or on-site, then create a space for news broadcasters to work, giving them what they need visually, whilst managing the location safely.
Deliver tailored and timed communications
Understand the impact on your stakeholders, staff and customers and tailor your communications approach and messaging accordingly. Always assume that any staff communication will be leaked so work with PR experts to coordinate the timing, language and tone of your communications.
Remind your staff of media and social media protocols and offer them practical and emotional support.
If you’re looking for support in developing your crisis communications strategy, just say firstname.lastname@example.org.