As brands slowly move into a post-pandemic state of operation, it’s worthwhile to examine the crisis communication practices that move businesses from a sustained state of crisis to more normal, day-to-day operations. In this Trilix journal, we’ll examine three best practices in crisis communications for organizations of any size.
When the COVID-19 pandemic settled in around the world in March 2020, brands and businesses found themselves needing to communicate in entirely different ways than before.
For some businesses, this was their first foray into crisis communications, which brings us to perhaps the biggest takeaway in this article.
When we think about who should be involved in this planning, there’s a balance between having all the voices at the table and having the right voices at the table.
1. Having an up-to-date and well-thought-out crisis communications plan can make or break the future of internal and external stakeholder relations.
It’s not IF your organization or business will encounter a crisis situation — but WHEN it will happen.
If a company has never created a crisis communications plan before, it can look and feel like a daunting task. There are multiple ways to approach this, from working with an agency like Trilix who has trained and experienced crisis communicators on staff, to finding a template and filling in information that best works for your company.
When we think about who should be involved in this planning, there’s a balance between having all the voices at the table and having the right voices at the table. Key people to include during the planning phase would be all senior leadership, department/division heads, and communications and public relations staff. Each person brings a different perspective and experience to the process.
As your plan is built, bringing in department-specific people to review the protocol for accuracy and detail is helpful. Each department may look and operate differently from the others, so it’s important to make sure the plan reflects those intricacies. The plan should also review any kind of calling tree or contact information record to ensure it’s correct.
Finally, once your plan is made and approved, ensure that it’s updated at least once a year. If there is a crisis or unexpected situation that occurs between the annual updates, use that learning to update the plan.
Consider your employees as your best ambassadors. When they are informed and feel close to the knowledge, they are able to correct misinformation that may be circulating or provide additional details.
2. When communicating to your stakeholders, start internal and work your way out.
If businesses learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the value of their employees. When it comes to communicating critical news and information, it is imperative to put employees and board members, if applicable, first. Ensuring they have the full scope of information before it is released on a website, to the media, or shared in public conversations helps employees stay close to the organization.
Consider your employees as your best ambassadors. When they are informed and feel close to the knowledge, they are able to correct misinformation that may be circulating or provide additional details. As information is released to the public, ensure messaging stays consistent from channel to channel.
3. Craft messages that inform and move the news cycle forward.
There are times, especially when it’s your organization that is in the midst of a crisis, when it feels like the news cycle will never get over your news. What can determine how media and external stakeholders react to the information is how you respond initially and throughout the situation.
Best practice recommends a response within one to two hours of the initial event. Our initial reaction can be to want to post or say something immediately, but take the time to gather the facts, which may involve working with local law enforcement and first responders or other involved personnel. From there, formulate a message that:
- Addresses and acknowledges the incident.
- Extends empathy and understanding for anyone who may be affected by it.
- States what the company is doing right now in response and what the next steps will be.
- Shares when and how stakeholders can expect the next update.
The topic of crisis communications can span all types of businesses and a variety of circumstances. However, when companies have a solid crisis plan to start with, it makes even the most unexpected events feel more manageable because of the work that has been done to prepare leadership and employees.