The headlines prone to grabbing the most attention are always those that describe total crises or scandals. Earlier this year, for example, Americans were glued to reports detailing how a passenger was forcibly dragged off a United Airlines flight in Chicago. Samsung, an electronics manufacturer, was publicly excoriated after it came to light that one of their popular smartphone models would catch fire and explode.
For companies and organizations under the microscope, this kind of public scrutiny can be torturous—and thanks to the reach of social media, any incident has the potential to become a reputation-shattering flashpoint (or worse). That’s why it’s essential that every organization establish a response plan for crisis communications before something goes wrong.
This is easier said than done, so take a look at some tips from our own resident experts on how your organization can prepare for crisis communications.
Develop a Team
When disaster strikes, everyone’s first instinct will be to panic, which will cripple any effective reaction to the crisis. To avoid this scenario, appoint a crisis communications team beforehand that will spring into action when needed. During its downtime, this team should anticipate a list of potential issues and develop messaging strategies for each, and they should practice these strategies so they feel natural and calm if they ever need to actually present them to the public.
In addition to your communications team, create materials that you can use to assist in your outreach efforts during crises. These can include press releases or marketing-style documents that present information, websites (which you can have inactive when not necessary) where you can post all updates, prepared statements from leaders of the organization, and so on.
It’s not the crime, an old adage explains, it’s the cover-up. Even if you’re not contending with accusations of criminal behavior, if you try to mislead the public about the nature of the crisis and that comes to light, you face debilitating damage to your reputation, if not worse. When it comes time to put your crisis communications team into action, instruct them to always answer questions honestly and give the most accurate information possible. It’s alright to say that you don’t know the answer to something if you genuinely don’t, but lying or deception should be avoided at all costs.
Watch out for our next blog on crisis communications where we’ll explain how our team was able to spring into action and help protect Arizonans’ access and cost for solar energy!
Sometimes all that’s needed to smooth over a crisis is an apology. Of course, offering a strong apology is an art unto itself, but there are a few best practices to consider: acknowledge the role your actions or inactions played in the crisis, explain what you’re doing to remedy the situation, and show that you regret the incident. Work with your crisis communications team to determine if an apology is necessary.