Q: There has been a lot said and written about the need for every organization to have a crisis communications plan in place for minimizing the potential damage and brainstorming possible worst case scenarios, but it is almost impossible to anticipate every possible reason for negative media attention. Could you give a couple of quick tips as to what every company or organization should be doing in terms of long-term preparation before any crises occur, whether online or offline?
A: Be brave enough to ask company leaders the hard questions. It’s incumbent upon the PR Lead to have the courage to do this. Being afraid to rock the boat doesn’t help in the long run.
Have a step-by-step manual in place to handle a crisis. It cannot have enough detail. This manual is a pre-approved roadmap that helps take indecision and doubt of the process.
Don’t be afraid to take a stand. You need to protect your client. That often means being unpopular, but I’d rather lose a client or my job than go along with the crowd who may not understand the stakes.
Q: No matter how carefully an organization prepared, no matter how well it responded and no matter what the nature of a crisis is, some of potential target audiences will not react as we would like them to or will not treat the good news as such. Is it better for a company or organization to continue making additional communication or refrain from additional comments to avoid aggravating negative publicity?
A: You can really only assess this at the time of crisis, but in general, you have to continue to communicate as a business.
Q: Communicating with employees as a key stakeholder group is sometimes overlooked by a company or organization during crisis communications. This, however, can put the entire crisis response at risk, especially in times when media are actively looking for sources of information and employees are able to act as brand ambassadors on their own social networks. In your opinion, what could be the most important things to remember while handling employee communications in times of crisis?
A: Your employees are an important link to the community. Make sure they’re armed with as much information as possible. Make sure they know they’re part of the team. Periodic updates are important. If they take pride in where they work, they’ll be eager advocates.