A necessary, but stressful aspect of public relations is crisis communication. Crises are almost inevitable since we are human and constantly make mistakes and to put it frankly, things happen that are beyond our control. It is in those moments that we need to be able to effectively communicate key messages to our audience and maintain the integrity of the organization. In order to better prepare for a crisis, your organization can take these steps Establish and create a crisis communication plan Having a crisis communication plan makes communication during a crisis seamless.
According to Bernstein Crisis Management you should include the following in your plan; Clearly identified individuals who operate as the crisis communication team. Identifying a team ensures that everyone on the organization knows who to field questions and inquiries as events unfold during a crisis. The team will drop most of their other responsibilities and focus solely on getting the organizations messages communicated through social media, traditional media and the internal stakeholders. The second aspect of a crisis communication plan is to identify a crisis spokesperson. This person should be someone who knows the organization well. They should more than likely be someone on the executive team or the communication team in order to establish credibility. The spokesperson should be the one who delivers all the statements and gets in front of the media, in order to show consistency with the organization.
Another thing that your organization should have ready to go should be holding statements. Holding statements are messages that are created before hand in order to be sent out to your stakeholders as you are preparing your full statements. For example, if the crisis is health related a statement could be, “Our hearts and prayers are with those who are in harm's way, and we hope that they are well.” Holding statements are crucial because another crisis can develop if the public feels that the organization is taking too long to communicate or respond. Organizations should strive to get out statements and messages as quick as possible and share information with the public immediately after they get it. Finally, the next step is to identify the stakeholders. Stakeholders can be internal or external. Most organizations often think of the external stakeholders as they are getting their statements out, and often neglect the internal stakeholders. Every employee in your organization needs to be receiving constant communication as well.
Have crisis simulations Once you have developed a crisis communication plan, anticipate all of the things that could go wrong with your organizations, create different scenarios and have everyone on your team practice them. Crisis simulations will put your crisis communication plan into action by testing it to ensure that everyone understands his or her role. On Friday’s blog we elaborated more on an example of a crisis simulation.