Natural disasters, economic crisis, industrial crisis, and pandemic disease. Sometimes these crises can come all at once, similar to what we are experiencing this year. In the best scenario, you have foreseen the crisis and prepared a communication plan for it. But if you haven’t, remember that it’s better late than never.
A common way to analyze a crisis is to define the “before, during, and after the crisis”. But when a crisis occurs, it is difficult to see it as a linear process. Instead, you feel like you are in the eye of the storm. Follow these steps and you might be able to find a way of restructuring a clear mind in times of chaos.
A key role of communication in crisis situations is to influence stakeholders to either act or accept the organization’s point of view to a certain degree.
Who are your decision makers?
In most crises, there is insufficient time to collect information and make decisions. Under great uncertainty, companies might take actions that accentuate the crisis instead of reducing the harm. To avoid that, the first thing to do is to gather a crisis communication team. You need a small team from different departments – communications, HR, finance, legal, IT and of course, the CEO.
Who are your stakeholders?
Then identify who might be affected in this crisis. They are usually your employees, business partners, customers, media, the public or even the government. Keep in mind that employees are your first and foremost audiences, as they can either help you ease the situation, or worsen the crisis.
Who are your spokespersons?
Prepare for spokesperson trainings as soon as possible. During a crisis, your company might have to speak to your stakeholders. It could be a video, a press conference, or social media livestreaming. Your spokespersons can be the PR executive, department lead, or the CEO. Using the right spokesperson at the right time is also critical.
What do you need to communicate?
After determining the “who”, you need to decide what is needed to communicate. During crisis situations, you are probably receiving attentions more than ever. Using it as an opportunity to demonstrate what you stand for as a company. Reiterate your organization’s value proposition, address sincere concerns to the affected audiences, and build a trustworthy brand.
What can you do to resolve the crisis?
1. Maintain a well-functioning communication flow internally and externally. During a crisis, information are always overflowed. Ensure your stakeholders can receive your messages, and keep them informed with the current situation no matter where they are. As some crises, like the coronavirus pandemic, might put everyone isolated at home.
2. Refine your crisis communication messages. Once you have determined who is the spokesperson, who to speak to, and what to communicate, the last thing is to refine your messages. The crisis communication team should develop holding statements once the crisis occurs. Then refine and adjust based on the situation before you publish. You want to communicate your actions with concise and clear messages, while avoiding any controversial or political hurdles.
3. Monitor how the crisis develops. Even though it is hard to tell what crisis stage you are at, you can still estimate how the situation might develop by monitoring social media, traditional media, and consulting professional opinions. Stay alert and agile!
What can you do after the crisis?
Continue monitoring media outlets to determine if further action is needed. Evaluate the crisis communication responses. Learn from the experience and finally, establish a new crisis communication plan!
Crisis, is “wei ji” in Chinese, which means danger and opportunity. Seek the opportunity in danger, then you will come out of the crisis stronger!