Keeping cool in a crisis

It’s never nice being faced with a crisis, but these top tips can help you to handle what the world throws at you and come out alive at the other end.

Have a crisis plan

Rather than panicking when a crisis hits, having a plan ready to go when it does will make life much easier. Start by jotting down the potential scenarios and then assume that they have happened.

Crises fall into two categories: uncontrolled (employee death, fires and the like) and controlled (job losses, takeovers etc) so you will need to have a plan in place for these different scenarios.

Decide what you will need to do – issue press releases, schedule media interviews, update your website, and create action points. Align these with the level of the crisis, assign specific people/roles responsibility for each task and create a crisis plan document so you’re prepared when disaster hits. And don’t forget to include an internal communications chain.

Use one voice

When a crisis hits, it is very tempting for different people to answer questions and queries – often giving different answers. But it is essential to ensure a consistent message is delivered by one central spokesperson – at the highest possible level within the business. Make sure the elected person has the knowledge, sensitivity, authority and interpersonal skills to deliver your message and is accessible to the media.

Be prepared

Before speaking to the media, make sure that you are prepared to answer any difficult questions. Be informed about the situation and understand what you can and can’t say. Don’t volunteer potentially damaging information and make sure to stick to the facts.

Don’t overlook social media

In this digital age, social media is one of the biggest headaches facing companies in crisis. Within minutes, the whole world can know – and be making comments – about your crisis. Use this to your advantage and be proactive in communicating with your customers – answer their concerns and provide information. It’s also a great tool to gauge public reaction to a situation.

Be honest

No matter how many bad examples of crisis management you read, many businesses still insist on learning the hard way. A network of smoke, mirrors and untruths will be discovered and you will end up with egg on your face and your reputation in tatters. Combat this by being as honest as you can with your customers and taking responsibility – they will respect you for it.

Don’t hide

Another mistake many companies make is falling into a black hole the second a crisis hits. Make sure to keep communicating – even if nothing has changed – and be proactive.

Monitor public opinion

Make sure to keep on top of public opinion – social media is a great tool here – and respond accordingly. This will help you to evolve your crisis communications plan as the situation develops.

Learn & improve

Once the dust has settled, get your crisis team together and evaluate your response. What worked well? What didn’t? What could you do better? Make sure to update your plan.