Threats to a reputation can come from anywhere. The business environment is a barrier to good crisis communication – building a plan is unique to your organization. In a crisis, it’s wise to think first of your customers and the media, but important to not forget about employees (as well as vendors, sponsors and any other stakeholders of the company). Without the facts, rumors and misinformation can run rampant. Should disaster strike, these six steps from Broadreach PR president Linda Varrell will help you navigate the troubled waters:
- Get all the facts. Collect as many facts as possible without disrupting internal operations. Speak with everyone internally that may have been involved to get all the details lined up.
- Identify and train your spokespeople. Once you have a solid communication plan – consisting of concise and concrete messages – designate an individual(s) to be the spokesperson. Provide them with a template for their statements, and provide samples of all the various questions they may be asked.
- Establish clear communication channels. Make sure messages about the situation are being transmitted to all departments, and any related issues that may be unique to those departments are being explored. Look around at all the various perspectives (CEO / COO, CFO, CIO, CRO, HR, Legal, CMA / PR) to be sure the situation has been examined from all angles.
- Tell employees what to say. Give your staff a script of talking points (3-5 key messages) with all of the background information and facts included – and ask them to practice. The consistent use of these talking points can help prevent confusion and mixed messages. Don’t forget to include a system for questions, feedback and discussion.
- Tell employees what not to say. Communicate how to deal with questions from the press. Just because the media calls doesn’t mean you need to start talking, but never say “no comment.” Instead, say: “This is an evolving situation; there are things we don’t yet know, but this is what I can tell you…” Again, practice!
- Create closure. When the dust has settled, send out a final announcement summing up what happened, and what’s being done moving forward. Point out all the takeaways and lessons learned from the experience. And don’t forget to thank employees for their support!