Normally we think of PR for effectively tooting your own horn and sharing thought leadership and ideas with your target audience. Well, sometimes it’s also the stories that we don’t want to share with the world that must be handled with a great degree of professionalism and care. It’s these unexpected and highly charged situations and crises that require advance thought and planning – no matter how painful.
Potential crises lurk right around the corner. Examples include: natural disasters, data breaches, reorganizations/downsizes, lawsuits, death of a high-level executive, or an employee posting discriminatory information on social media.
While most CPG companies have crisis communications plans in place, many B2B firms never think that they need them. So when a crisis occurs, they attempt to navigate it by the seat of their pants. This can have a devastating impact on the company’s health and can even sink it if not handled properly. It is especially important in today’s social media driven world to get ahead of any situation. Here are five steps you can take in order to prepare for the worst:
- Identify Potential Crises: Each company has different issues that may arise, so you need to identify potential risks/issues that could affect the day-to-day business operations, list the scenarios and prepare responses in advance. From natural disasters, to tech systems failure, to death of a high-level exec, you need to be ready for everything. Having a basic idea of what can occur will allow you to plan accordingly and establish back up strategies.
- Identify Your Audiences and how you will communicate with them (i.e. press release for general media, phone calls to staff and clients, emails to close friends of the firm.)
- Designate a Spokesperson: When a crisis does occur, your company needs someone who has the credentials to speak for the entire company and is available to answer questions. In order to assure they do the job properly, you should invest in media training for crisis scenarios. It’s not likely that someone has faced the same crisis twice, so teaching them how to respond is vital. It will ensure that the event is communicated correctly and no misinformation is distributed. Establishing roles and responsibilities and speaking with one voice will reassure staff and clients of the company’s health.
- Monitor all channels: news, social media, and competitors’ social and sites and respond accordingly.
- Develop a crisis communication manual. This will allow employees to be on the same page and know the general steps to take when handling the emergency. This can include how to appropriately construct a press release, how to handle the media, and how to respond to the outlets reaching out to you. Having a basic idea of the proper steps will provide a sense of security and safety.
Most companies take too long to respond because they’re not organized/ready. Being prepared for every possible event is the best way to ensure your company will stay in business during a crisis. Crisis planning buys you the time you need to respond. Having these things determined ahead of time along with a streamlined process is invaluable when you’re actually in the situation. Crises can occur at any moment and it’s imperative that you are equipped with the correct information on how to handle them.