When a crisis occurs, it is often those that have systems in place to mitigate that crisis that best handle the situation. Various plans that sometimes sit in a folder virtual or otherwise, brought out for an annual review are suddenly brought online, such as business continuity plans, information communications technology crisis protocols and crisis communication plans. Coupled with the systems are (hopefully) trained people who can implement those systems.
Darren Lee is the Managing Director at Market Creations a Marketing Communications and technology firm with experience in crisis communications planning and response, he is seeing many clients realise they need new communication measures in the current climate.
“Our agency is helping clients through this time of crisis, assisting with communications response as well as communications tools and technology implementation to address their needs.”
“This level of crisis is unprecedented with many businesses having to quickly implement suitable measures, one thing we must learn from this is to more effectively plan for a crisis,” said Darren.
The current situation is not localised with the world currently experiencing a crisis and we can all observe various crisis communications that are being implemented, whether by international authorities, all levels of government, businesses of all types or our own employer. Post this crisis many will judge these various organisations for how they have communicated their messages, in fact many are voicing their views now, one thing is clear, the message must be clear and concise. Is it that simple though?
What makes for a responsible and effective crisis communications plan?
One of the overarching messages you must take away from this article, and one enforced by Darren Lee and his team, is that you must be prepared.
“Many large corporates will have extensive scenario planning, risk assessment and other exercises whereby they attempt to anticipate what could happen and plan for how to respond in the event of the scenario playing out. Many would also mitigate risk by implementing measures in advance to reduce risk,” said Darren.
“Scenario planning for smaller organisations may be facilitated by a crisis communications specialist or representative from a public relations firm such as Market Creations whereby businesses can benefit from being assisted by our people who have experience in crisis and issue management,” he said.
Secondly you must identify your crisis response team. Generally, a small team lead by the Managing Director or CEO, this person may be advised or supported by a legal counsel and the head of Corporate Communications. Should your corporate communications team not have crisis communications experience, or for smaller organisations that have limited to no internal PR personnel, you may wish to engage an agency with those skills to support the internal team. Businesses such as Market Creations can assist with scenario planning, crisis communications planning and provide ongoing PR and corporate communications support.
Next your spokesperson must be trained, an investment in media training and actively participating in scenario planning and exercises are vital to ensure the identified spokesperson is prepared. Test your spokesperson and ensure you have an equally trained and tested understudy in the event your nominated spokesperson is unavailable.
Importantly, during your planning you must identify your stakeholders (internal and external) keeping in mind that the type of crisis may affect the extent of your impact on your various stakeholder groups. You may also consider how you will customise your message, for example, will you need to translate your message into other languages?
Furthermore, you must establish your notification systems. How will you reach your stakeholders? Keeping in mind you must build in contingencies to these should your identified main measures fail. Having a prepared message and energetic spokesperson is nothing if you can’t reach your stakeholders. Ensure your platforms can cope with the added requirements that a crisis may present and review how you can scale up in the event of a crisis. The team at Market Creations can audit your current notification systems and identify and work with you to select and implement the right tools that are appropriate for your audience.
Finally, during the crisis planning, you must develop holding statements and key messages ensuring there is alignment with the audience as well as the platforms and channels via which you will communicate. Practice preparing communications that are targeted and clearly present your message.
Being clear and concise when responding to a crisis is vital but being prepared may be the difference in the long term.
For more strategies on how to communicate with your stakeholders in the current crisis or for assistance in forward communications planning speak to the team at Market Creations.