Crisis Communication 101: How to Prepare Like a Pro
You might think (or hope) that a crisis won’t befall your business. However, this type of difficult situation is usually unexpected, and preparing in advance will make sure your business can survive and minimizes reputational fall-out by showing the necessary level of professionalism and care.
So, what would be considered a crisis in need of a prepared response? Any major incident that impacts safety, financial security or could negatively impact the business, its employees or customers.
Examples of a crisis
Here are a few examples from Sprout Social on crises that you might remember:
- KFC runs out of chicken, their main product, in UK stores.
- Slack has a widespread outage caused by a backend configuration change that overtaxed the messaging app’s infrastructure.
- Tide addresses the Tide Pod challenge which stemmed from outside the company and encouraged kids to eat the laundry detergent. Many children wound up in the hospital.
Benefits of having a crisis plan ready
The last thing you want to do in a crisis is have to scramble to reach important team members and put together messaging. Have a plan in advance of a potential disaster so that communication with your employees and customers will go smoothly and demonstrate that your company is doing its best to make the situation right. Especially if it’s found that the crisis is the fault of the company or employees, it’s vital to create a clear communication strategy to reach both your internal and external audiences.
What should be in your plan
Here are a few things to add to your crisis plan:
Contact info – All major stakeholders and management should be listed including phone and email. Make a contact tree so that on-site personnel know exactly who to call and how to react to a situation. Remember to include your PR and crisis management teams so that they can get to work for you right away.
Identify a chain of command and a spokesperson – Figure out in advance who will be in charge during a crisis. Assign responsibilities such as who will communicate with employees, emergency responders and the press. Determine your spokesperson for public communication.
Potential crisis list – Think ahead to what types of crises might touch your business. Data breaches, equipment malfunction, employee injury and customer injury are common places to start.
Messaging templates – For each potential emergency, build basic messaging that can be modified to a specific situation. Don’t wait for something to happen to think about what you’d say and how you’d address each scenario on your potential crisis list.
Internal investigation – Customers will want to know what the business is doing to make things right. Forty-one percent of customers said they would stick with a brand that admits and apologizes for wrongdoing. Part of taking ownership is investigating what happened. Have steps in place for an internal investigation that cooperates with emergency response and police if necessary.
Monitoring framework – Once the crisis itself is over, the residual effects won’t go away overnight. Keep monitoring the situation and track customer response for at least six months after the incident.
Be prepared for a crisis
A crisis can happen suddenly. The best way to make it out on the other side is to have a solid crisis communication plan and team already in place. This will make sure that your business communicates clearly with employees, customers and the public to convey important information and messaging.