When will your next crisis hit?

Some recent client activity prompted me to brush up my crisis communications skills… which made me wonder, are YOU ready for the coming crisis?

Now, my client had a minor crisis (no nuclear meltdowns fortunately) but any situation can get out of control without communicating the right message over the best media channels to reach your audience quickly and get them to respond or take action.

A Crisis can come in many forms, i.e. a defective product, employee accident, facility/machine malfunction, spokesperson comments, lawsuit, etc. The way your company responds to and deals with any crisis however has a lasing impact on your brand.

For instance, the CEO of Chick-Fil-A made some personal comments to a reporter and within a few hours a major brand image crisis developed to the extent of customers calling for boycotts and sit-ins all orchestrated through social media. How would you have handled this situation?

Well if you’re not sure, you need a plan.

In fact, you should always have a plan. While you can never be prepared for every situation, you can have a crisis communications strategy ready to implement at a moments notice.

Here are 5 Tips for Responding to any Crisis:

1. Assess the situation.
What happened? Is it ongoing? First, you need to assess the crisis and determine how serious is the situation. On a level from one to ten (ten being a plant meltdown), where does your crisis fall? Gather the facts and define the situation.

2. Who needs to know?
It is an internal or external crisis? Should you tell the media? Who does the crisis affect? Determining which audiences need to be informed is key in providing information and responding quickly.

3. Develop your Message and Identify your Spokesperson(s)
Once you have all the facts you can determine what you need to say about the crisis. Controlling the details of the situation will help control the crisis level and impact on your audiences. Keep your message clear, concise and consistent. For instance, you may need to tell your employees more details than you would want to tell your customers or the media. Determine what are the most important facts your audience needs to know and tell them.

If you don’t know that facts yet its okay to say it. It is better to be honest about the situation then try to control a message when you don’t have all the facts – you will confuse your audience and discredit your real message when you have the details.

You will also need to identify a spokesperson(s). This person should be fully aware of the crisis and most importantly prepared to answer questions from your audiences. If this person needs to address the media, a prepared statement or talking points should be provided to give a consistent message to all of your audiences.

4. Distribute your Message Quickly.
How quickly does your audience need to know of the crisis? Should you send an email or letter? Do you put the message on your social media channels? Do you call a media press conference?

It is very important to respond immediately to a crisis. Depending on the level of your crisis and your audience, you can easily determine what channels are the most effective in reaching them with your message.

5. Reassess and Respond.
Finally you’ve sent your message to your audiences, now what? If the crisis is ongoing you will need to make updates to your audiences of the situation until it is resolved. If it has been resolved, be prepared to answer additional questions from your employees, customers and the media.

Note: Your spokesperson should be the sole person to respond to any follow up on the crisis – that’s why you chose and prepared them for this situation.

Of course, you should never wait for a crisis to communicate your company’s news to your key audiences, but always be prepared with a strategy for when a crisis does strike.

What did you learn in your last crisis situation?

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About promotionalguru

A marketing communications professional helping other marketing professionals, business leaders and marketing students gain a better understanding of trends in advertising and public relations as well as tips for being a successful marketer.

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