How to Create an Effective Crisis Communications Strategy

How to Create an Effective Crisis Communications Strategy

Crisis communications is one of the most important, but also overlooked, parts of public relations. While securing headlines and features in national papers will always be the thing which (quite literally) grabs the headlines, having a crisis communications strategy is just as valuable when it comes to the public perception of your company.

You can think of it a bit like insurance. Some people think they will be okay without it and no one likes seeing the money come out of their bank every month, but once you’ve been in a situation which you need to use it, and it saves your skin, you realise it is worth every penny.
Although it may seem like it is quite reactionary, and is something which you can deal with when it happens, an effective crisis comms strategy is all about being proactive. This is where having a thought-out and considered plan proves invaluable. Here are our 5 top tips to creating an effective crisis comms strategy to help you protect your businesses’ reputation.

1.    Prepare for every eventuality

Dedicating time to preparing in advance when it comes to crisis communications can help you react much more effectively when they occur. Identifying potential threats which face your business gives you more time to consider the best ways to respond to these. Doing so before the crisis occurs allows you to think about the responses in a place without the pressure, giving you the clarity to make better decisions on how you will respond.

If you leave it, then you will have to come up with a plan on the spot, which when you’re under pressure, can be very difficult to make the best decision.

Start by listing which potential incidents may happen in the future, and then identify how you would respond to these. It’s also good at this point to include roles and responsibilities within your team so it’s clear to everyone involved what will be needed from them.

2.    Choose your channels and tailor your messages

It’s also important to identify which channels to use to communicate your response, such as press releases, social media or emails. Using a multi-channel approach is always recommended in order to spread your message wide and fast, but it may also require you to tailor your message to each of your different stakeholders. It’s important that you directly address the concerns and needs of each stakeholder group so that you can have the most effective response.

3.    Be transparent

Being transparent and honest during a crisis is absolutely vital for preserving your reputation. This helps to build trust and credibility with your stakeholders, whether that’s your customers or even key media contacts. Once this is broken it’s very hard to restore that trust and it can do irreversible damage to your reputation and your business.

Acknowledging your mistake or error in judgment in an open and honest way is a much more effective response than trying to cover up the truth.

4.    Act quickly

It’s important to act quickly and decisively during a crisis. If you leave it too long to respond you allow the story to get out of control, something which is especially prevalent in the age of social media, which has turned into a key area for public discussion. The speed of which online discussion can spiral, means that before you know it the story has spread across the world before you can form a response.

A quick response to a crisis means the public can hear your response and your side of the story before it gets out of hand.

5.    Evaluate and monitor

One of the most underappreciated steps in crisis management comes after the event. It’s vital to evaluate and monitor the success of your crisis communications in order to improve in case a similar situation occurs again.

Taking the time to review what went well and what may need to improve is a vital part of preparing for the future and ensuring that you come up with a successful plan to mitigate the impact of any future incidents. Some of the best crisis communications plans are shaped and formed from past experiences, which is why this is such an important step.

Don’t overlook crisis communications

It’s easy to overlook crisis communications as being something you don’t think you need. However, due to the pace of the internet and how quickly incidents can spread, investing in a crisis communications strategy is an invaluable part of protecting your brand’s reputation.

Even for those companies who think they don’t need it, are likely to need a response plan at some point, so it’s always a worthwhile investment to cover your back.

If you want to find out more about how CWA can help with the reputation management of your brand, then contact us today.