Over the weekend The Glass Hammer posted a great article contributed by Susan Stern, of Stern & Associates, explaining how to prepare for a communications crisis. I have included a section of the article below, but you can find the full text here.
Few companies or organizations will never face a serious and immediate challenge at some point during their history. How effectively and quickly the organization deals with the threat and communicates with the media, customers, employees and other key publics often determines how its products, services and corporate leaders are viewed – positively or negatively – for many years to come.
What essential steps should executives and managers take to avoid damaging their brand and ensure a positive outcome when a crisis occurs?
Step 1. Create a Written Crisis Communications Plan
Effective crisis communication depends on implementing a thorough plan based on the ordinary challenges a company could face in the course of an ordinary day as well as extraordinary events such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and workplace violence. The plan must be designed to help your organization’s leaders quickly and effectively communicate important information and key messages to the media, customers, employees and other key publics. A crisis communications plan is an essential corporate tool in today’s world. With social media and text messaging rapidly spreading information – and potential misinformation – to a wide audience in minutes, it’s critical to be able to act swiftly and effectively before the damage begins. Delays caused when organizations need to start framing their response from scratch force them to play “catch up” with the media and other key audiences.
Your plan should be a framework for action, containing the information gathered during your initial organizational work as well as material you’ve developed based on specific scenarios your company could face. It should be flexible enough to be quickly edited and customized for a specific situation so it does not appear that you’re simply issuing off-the-shelf statements.
It is also important that individuals in your company who could potentially speak with the media be trained by a public relations practitioner with crisis experience to understand the preferred communications techniques and effectively deliver key messages on a regular basis and when it counts most.