We live in a world where crises seem to erupt regularly: from data breaches, incidences of workplace violence and reputational issues to natural disasters, severe improprieties and the threat of pandemics. The fact is, organizations that aren’t prepared to deal with these and other issues truly have their heads in the sand. Unfortunately, approximately 95 percent of organizations today remain either completely or significantly unprepared for a crisis.
The following items should be considered when contemplating how your organization will manage a crisis incident:
- In thinking about the needs that are specific to your company, define what a crisis is and isn’t. What is considered a crisis for one company may not always impact another company the same way.
- Make sure to regularly listen to and monitor what is being said about your organization in social media for potential negative chatter and whether or not that chatter is escalating. While not everything needs to be responded to, the quicker you get out there with your brand’s response, the quicker you help define the narrative.
- Invest in reputation management. Sadly, most companies don’t invest enough in managing their reputation until something goes wrong. The good news is that companies that consistently care about and manage their reputation are prepared when things go bad. They also weather the ill effects of a crisis better than those who don’t.
- If you are faced with a crisis situation, know that the average crisis lasts approximately 72 hours. There may be bad and ugly leading up to it and potential pain and sorrow afterward, but be prepared to weather a 3-day ordeal before the storm starts to gradually subside.
- Communication is absolutely critical during a crisis. With this in mind, know that social media cuts in half the time you have to respond to an incident. The longer you wait to get your message out there, the more public opinion will be dictated by what others are saying about you.
- It is absolutely necessary to create conditions for how your organization’s voice can be heard. As stated above, it is important that your stakeholders and others hear what you have to say about an incident before they start listening to others.
- During a crisis, two questions will most always be top on the public’s mind: “Who’s the victim?” and “Who’s to blame?” Until you can make your voice heard, the assumption is that your company is to blame. Today’s social media-driven environment will enable voices to chime in that will support that assumption.
- Keep your enemies close…a crisis is the perfect time for competitors that have a beef against your company to stir things up. By knowing this, you can develop a strategy beforehand that helps your company deal with competitors who circulate misinformation that maligns your brand/company.
- The more visual a crisis, the faster it will spread on social and traditional media channels. Seeing a fire, plane crash or explosion is much more compelling than simply hearing about it.
- Communications during a crisis must be truth-based, but know that the truth will change as a crisis escalates and subsequently wanes. This is why it is important to monitor a crisis situation hour-by-hour and communicate regularly about how the situation is changing. And, your key messages and statements will change as the truth changes.