Margaret McGann

Crisis Communications: the right response is critical

In communications and marketing, crisis communications, monitoring, planning, public relations, research, social media on June 21, 2010 at 10:25 am

It’s happened — a full-blown crisis has hit your organization and there’s no time to lose in our 24/7 news cycle, Twitter and blogosphere universe because the media will be on your doorstep, calling, tweeting, emailing and sharing immediately.

And as we’re seen from the BP crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and their CEO spokesperson Tony Hayward, your response and spokespeople are critical to mitigating the damage to your organization.  All your messaging and hard work can be undone by spokespeople who are seen as neither credible or trustworthy.

This is where your preparation and training for a worst case scenario crisis pays off.

  1. Activate all systems (code word, war room, 24 hour hotlines, internal and external microsite(s), notification systems, Twitter, Facebook, blog accounts, etc)
  2. Review and release holding statements to give you a chance to assess the situation, get accurate information and develop key messages
  3. Continue to develop crisis-specific messages required as the crisis evolves
  4. Project trustworthiness and credibility by being clear, concise, consistent and accurate
  5. Make sure spokespeople who may need it get a media training refresh
  6. Review and revise your comprehensive crisis communications plan as needed
  7. Continually communicate updates starting with your internal audiences first, then  media and external key stakeholders
  8. Launch public information and media relations campaigns to offset impacts
  9. Ensure your designated spokespeople all speak with one consistent voice
  10. Constantly monitor the situation and media and make sure you respond quickly if needed
  11. Give staff daily briefings
  12. Hold daily media briefings
  13. Enlist third-party endorsers
  14. Form strategic partnerships and host partner and stakeholder meetings to share information and best practices
  15. Research through polls, surveys and focus groups to determine if you need to do more and how you should do it
  16. Work with marketing on new programs and/or campaigns to reassure stakeholders

It’s important to remember when you’re in the midst of a crisis that it will eventually run its course, the media will pack up and move on to another story and you will move on to the recovery phase.

Oftentimes the crisis doesn’t so much end with a bang as a whimper. You’ll realize the worst is over and you need to move on to the next phase.

Next week we’ll look at what you should do post-crisis.

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