When a crisis strikes, how you respond can be just as important as the crisis itself. A quick response that reflects your authenticity and transparency will help you build trust and establish the narrative.
The first 10 steps:
1. Activate the Situation Room
All major organizations should have a physical space prepared in advance for responding to an emergency. The Situation Room should be equipped with fast, secure wifi, multiple phone lines, video conferencing capability, printer access, white boards, as well as access to social media listening, access to credentials for digital platforms, and food. It’s important for the crisis management team to be insulated from the distractions of normal operations. Successful crisis management requires focus.
2. Alert Situation Room Personnel and Other Key Players
In addition to senior management and communications officers, you may need representatives of regulatory, public safety, or other agencies, outside legal counsel, and technical specialists.
3. Alert Relevant Partners
Every organization has natural allies. You will need yours to convey key messages, publish content through their digital platforms, help shape the online conversation, and collaborate in post-crisis initiatives.
4. Initiate Intensive Media and Conversation Monitoring
The crisis management team needs to be aware of the prevailing narrative, tone, and sentiment of the online conversation and conventional media coverage in real time.
5. Identify and Follow the Relevant Decision Tree for Escalation
A good crisis communications plan anticipates various emergency scenarios and sets thresholds for the scale of a communications response. The scenarios may vary from product recalls and cyber-attacks to threats to public safety, criminal activity, environmental threats, and natural disasters. The decision trees anticipate the conditions in which communications responses will escalate based on social media analytics and the volume and prominence of media coverage.
6. Revise Standby Statement to Reflect Current Situation
Standby statements should be already drafted for various crisis scenarios. The statement most applicable to the actual crisis will be revised to match the current fact situation.
7. Identify Key Constituents
Who are the key stakeholders? What are the key messages for each category? What are the best communications channels to reach each stakeholder group?
8. Identify and Brief the Spokesperson
Who has the deepest understanding of the issues? Who has the skills to speak for the organization? Can that person serve as the face of the organization? The most senior member of the executive team is not always the best choice.
9. Decide Whether to Activate “Dark” Website
Well prepared organizations build a dark site to serve as the communications hub for the crisis. A site dedicated to the crisis can often do a better job of delivering relevant content to stakeholders. The organization’s home page is usually not designed to host comprehensive crisis information.
10. Determine If a More Detailed Statement Is Required and If a News Conference or Other Live Event Must Be Held
Speed is essential. If you don’t fill the information vacuum, others will. You own the facts in the early hours of a crisis, allowing you to begin to shape the narrative.
Then take a deep breath, stay calm, and know that you have done the preparation to succeed.