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Crisis Communications: Insurance for your brand and reputation

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Corporate crises can come in many forms: technical issues, natural disasters, shifts in government policy, employee misconduct, customer complaints, a global pandemic, cybersecurity, product recalls, conflict with interest groups – to name a few.  One thing is certain, at some stage in your career you’ll need to deal with a crisis that has potential ramifications for your most valuable assets: your brand, reputation and stakeholder relationships – or even your business survival.

Each organisation has a unique set of risks and exposures in addition to their people’s behaviour that can impact them dramatically and quickly. Therefore, the best way to address a crisis is proactively and with a carefully considered and strategic approach.

You can burn through your goodwill as a service provider, employer or corporate citizen when you don’t deal with a crisis properly. That’s why crisis communications is an essential business process. It is the best insurance you can have for the long-term success of your organisation. For it is a real and tested plan of attack for how you will respond to and manage a crisis.

Most of the work of crisis communications occurs before the crisis; planning is the key component to a crisis communication strategy working.

Time is of the essence

You have less than 30 minutes to respond to a crisis that has the potential to be seen by your stakeholders; for in today’s digital world, your crisis could quickly escalate out of your control.

Responding quickly to gain control of the message is vital to ensure others – the media, your detractors – don’t become the authorities on your crisis. When you say nothing, it leaves the gap open for others to fill; it is never the right strategy to say nothing.

Leadership crisis communication training is key to delivering when you need it most; if a crisis occurs and you find yourself in front of people, media or stakeholders here are a few important tips to follow:

  • Address the humanity of the situation
  • Tell people what you know of what happened
  • Tell the truth
  • Admit what you do know at this point
  • Admit what you don’t know
  • Be clear on what you are doing to find out more and investigate
  • Be clear on the path of action at this stage
  • Tell people when the next update will be

Be prepared, it can be a long game

The reality is that once the initial crisis is over, your crisis communications may last weeks, months and even years after the incident.

The messaging, meetings with stakeholders, and changing policies and procedures to either prevent the crisis or deal with it differently after the incident or investigation is key to the success of your crisis management and an important part of the work.

After the initial shock of the crisis is over, you should always go back and review your plan to make sure it can be the best you need it to be.

The short story

A crisis is always going to be a linchpin moment in an organisation’s history and culture; the way it is dealt with will resonate more loudly than the crisis itself and leave indelible impacts on your reputation, trust, brand and culture.

An organisation’s response to crisis, no matter how large or small, must be planned for, managed and completed fully.

The leader’s response to a crisis, will be felt for years to come; so it is worth being prepared.

Want to know more? Join Felicity Zadro on a ZU Safari as she hosts CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS. Plan to survive.