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Surviving to Crisis

Companies have (or should have) a specialized team in managing crisis communications. This team is responsible to act when things go wrong and a crisis strikes the company.

How do they do this?

There are five different types of crisis: financial crisis, personnel crisis (related to employees), organizational crisis (as a change in leadership), technological crisis, and natural crisis. Companies may be prepared for some of them but there will always be the surprise factor that could alter everything.

Internal roles in companies are very important when they must act fast: a specialized team with legal advisors, a designated spokesperson, and an important communication team are the key factors that lead to crisis management success. Being prepared will help you survive. When confronting a crisis there are four different ways of responding:

  • Denying the blame: pointing someone else may be a strategy.
  • Apologizing, saying something. Quickly. Silence is complicity. Every minute that is lost can be used against you.
  • Deflecting strategy: show other things you are doing good, drive attention to benefits or corporate responsibility.
  • Impression management strategy: respond, resolve, project. Do something to save the company’s reputation.

Quick is best

Response velocity, taking quick action, having a fast response, and being able to communicate, will determine the success of the crisis survival. The reaction time and the adaptation to the response flux in every system will define their failure or success.

This changed a lot in time, today’s media platforms and usages make communication travel the world in only seconds. This demands the companies an extreme velocity when responding to crises. Peter Sandman in Responding to Community Outrage: Strategies for effective Risk Communication[1] highlights the importance of, at first, recognizing the issue, acknowledging it, and taking responsibility, and secondly, understanding all of the potential messages and perceptions that could surge; be the only and first responsible for communication, do not leave anyone else to talk on your behalf.

There are some good practices that the author Timothy Coombs[2] highlights in the planning on crisis reaction:

  1. Create a plan: data, contacts, references, key elements that would make you save time when confronting a crisis. Define roles and responsibilities in your teams.
  2. Create a responsible committee that would be the ones that decide strategies in crisis moments.
  3. Spokesman, who should be trained to talk with media, PR, conferences.
  4. Prepare draft messages, press releases, social media posts, speeches. Have a “Dark site” or crisis website that is designed prior to the crisis.

For example your site but sober, a site that has no promotions or discounts. Official communications, instructions to customers or people that could be affected, information of what to do, relevant information about the specific crisis impact, Q&As, always updated with last-minute information, and official communications.

Being prepared for the crisis will help you be fast when reacting, have a strategically constructed plan. Have in mind all your communication platforms, and use them. Have messages prepared, so you just have to adjust to the specific crisis response.  Work with your legal team to prepare this plan. Have a designated spokesman who has all the last-minute information.

Monitor what is being said in media, both social and traditional. Be smart, look for opportunities. Measure and act.

Demonstrate sincerity, commitment, and will to change. People will believe if you are demonstrating that you are responsible and that you are taking all the possible actions to come out of this crisis. Customer is your focus, keep that in mind.

So… key actions?

Act fast. Act responsibly. Be informative, do not let things to social interpretation. You are the owner of the information, take advantage of this.

Hope you liked today’s “Let’s talk about…” topic, I look forward to reading your positions and comments!


[1] https://www.psandman.com/media/RespondingtoCommunityOutrage.pdf

[2] https://instituteforpr.org/crisis-management-communications/

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