The term “period of crisis” is to be understood in the broadest sense: pandemic (COVID 19 from February 2020) or epidemic, economic depression/recession, political unrest, violent social protests (Gilets Jaunes demonstration in 2018) at national level, new legislation to be implemented quickly with major upheavals in the way of working, etc
The crisis can also be internal to the company: a drop in turnover, scandals that damage the image and therefore the profitability of the company, etc. Whatever the context, a company may be obliged to implement crisis communication.
Any company – whatever its size – may one day be confronted with a crisis: the key word is to be prepared, to know how to anticipate, to be calm and to know how to answer the multitude of questions you will be asked
How to manage public relations? How do you communicate with the media, employees and customers during this period? What are the key touch points and messages you need to be aware of in a crisis situation? And what steps do you need to take once the situation is over to prevent it happening again?
- What is crisis communication?
- When is crisis communication used?
- Communicating well in a crisis
- How do you manage crisis communication in a company?
- How to manage your company’s public relations?
- How do you train for crisis communication?
- Why should all companies prepare a crisis communication plan?
- What are the characteristics of crisis communication?
- What are the objectives of crisis communication?
- What are the tools of crisis communication?
- Conclusion: why is crisis communication important?
What is crisis communication?
Crisis communication: definition
Crisis communication is a general term that describes the measures taken by a company or organisation to respond to and manage a negative situation. The primary objective of crisis communication is to minimise the commercial impact of a negative event, but it can also be used to improve stakeholder engagement.
When is crisis communication used?
Crisis communication is a form of communication that is generated in the midst of a crisis. In such situations, the objective of crisis communication is to restore the confidence of customers, investors or employees in the company’s services and products
Controlling one’s (e)reputation
It also aims to prevent negative publicity by issuing official statements and managing press conferences as soon as possible after an event.
Companies need crisis communication when something goes wrong in their company, and it affects the company’s image, reputation or finances
In most cases, a large CAC 40 company, for example, hires a public relations company to handle all the details of the crisis. This means that they are responsible for telling the public how they are going to handle the situation and what they are going to do to ensure that it never happens again.
Communicating well in a crisis
In times of crisis, companies need to communicate quickly, clearly and effectively. This can be a challenge when details change by the minute and critical decisions have to be made, and most importantly: you are not prepared.
Your communication strategy must allay the fears of customers, partners and investors, make risk management clear and allocate resources to help customers through the crisis.
One of the most important elements of crisis communication is clear communication. When communicating aspects of your organisation’s response to a crisis, you should be as clear and concise as possible
While this may seem like common sense, avoid using jargon or ambiguous terms.
How do you manage crisis communication in a company?
Crisis communication is a key part of a company’s strategic planning
In the event of an unexpected crisis, whether it is a natural disaster, a scandal or a lawsuit against you or your company, it is important to prepare in advance by creating relationship and communication strategies to mitigate potential damage to all stakeholders, including customers, employees and investors.
Prioritise actions to manage a serious crisis and build a team of trusted advisers
Focus on maintaining the brand’s reputation, keep your stakeholders informed of developments so that the message is consistent, and develop an action plan in case things go wrong (or right).
If you organise frequent company seminars and team building sessions, you will have done most of the work because you will have built lasting team cohesion among your employees.
How to manage your company’s public relations?
Companies can manage their public image and reputation by being proactive and communicating effectively with customers, employees and the general public. Crisis communication is a system for identifying potential hazards before they occur, developing plans to manage them when they do occur, and communicating with stakeholders to ensure that the perception is reality.
As a manager, one of the most important responsibilities is to manage public relations
Public relations management is about developing and maintaining a positive image of your company so that it is seen as a good citizen in society.
A public relations professional can help you with this and will be primarily responsible for managing the reputation of an organisation or individual by communicating with the press, writing press releases and messages, organising events and developing media strategies through their network.
How do you train for crisis communication?
You cannot predict the course of a crisis. With 360 degree situational awareness and training, you can identify potential dangers, prepare for them and communicate with the right people at the right time.
All crisis communication plans should be tested. In a crisis, it is essential to know your message and how to deliver it effectively.
Although it is impossible to predict how a crisis will unfold, with the right knowledge and training you can identify potential risks and prepare quickly.
Why should all companies prepare a crisis communication plan?
A crisis communication plan is a document that defines best practices for communicating with customers, investors and the media in the event of a crisis
Preparing for a potential crisis is an essential part of running a business today – it is all too easy for your business to be thrust into the spotlight if you are not prepared
You need to prepare a crisis communications plan, know how to create one and everything else you need to know about planning so that your business can survive even if everything seems to be going wrong behind the scenes.
A well-prepared crisis communications plan can save your business from the devastating effect of any crisis, such as an environmental accident or a cybersecurity issue
A good plan will determine how and when to communicate with stakeholders in a timely manner, so that they understand what happened, how it was resolved and what steps will be taken to prevent it happening again.
What are the characteristics of crisis communication?
The characteristics of crisis communication are as follows
- crisis communications should be detailed, but at the same time brief
- messages should be clear and concise
- emergency communication messages should be sent to all stakeholders involved in the crisis, including employees, customers, business partners and the media.
When a crisis occurs, you must act quickly and openly
You need to disseminate information as clearly and quickly as possible to your stakeholders to reduce anxiety. Clarity is essential in these situations because the last thing you want is for your stakeholders to question the integrity of the company or its management.
What are the objectives of crisis communication?
The objectives of crisis communication are: to identify stakeholders and their needs, to reduce the impact and prevent further problems, to mitigate the financial impact, to restore your reputation and ensure sustainability.
Crisis communication is a process that usually takes place in two phases: the crisis phase and the recovery phase
The crisis phase
The crisis phase involves taking action to correct or mitigate an undesirable situation,
The recovery phase
The second phase aims to restore normality by communicating strong messages about what happened, why it happened and what steps are being taken to prevent similar events from happening again
Although every crisis is different, there are several common objectives that practitioners should strive to achieve when developing their strategy:
- perception management (how the crisis is perceived internally and how it is perceived externally) ;
- containment (finding a quick and effective way to manage and stop the crisis)
- and crisis resolution.
What are the tools of crisis communication?
Crisis communication tools include the following elements
- A statement from the company about what happened;
- The appointment of a spokesperson;
- Providing accurate information;
- Reaffirming the company’s values;
- Using social media to communicate with employees and customers;
- Provide assurance that there is no further risk, that the situation is under control;
- Consult other stakeholders: internal com’, press, shareholders/investors, public, customers, etc
- Consult with other stakeholders: internal communication, the press, shareholders/investors, the public, customers, etc. Set up a media watch in the press, newspapers, blogs and national and local radio stations;
- Provide assistance to possible victims (employees, suppliers, etc.);
- Communicate publicly again on point 9 to prove your good faith
Conclusion: why is crisis communication important?
Crisis communication is important for any business because it ensures that your audience is quickly informed of a problem and its potential impact
It also prevents inaccurate or confusing information from spreading, as people share information with each other.
Crisis communication is essential to the survival of any organisation as it ensures that employees, customers and other stakeholders are informed of important information related to organisational crises