Three Main Principles Of Crisis Communication
How do you handle crisis communication? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
A crisis is any situation that could cause your organization significant reputational damage and negative media coverage. Crises come in all shapes and sizes. They can be ongoing or acute. They can involve individuals, organizations, or institutions. They can reach a resolution in a matter of hours, days, or even months.
While all crises are unique, they share one common characteristic: when mismanaged, they can profoundly alter the way the public perceives your brand.
At Miller Ink, my strategic and crisis communications firm in Los Angeles, we tailor our crisis response strategies to the unique needs of every client. However, all our crisis management plans are built on a few key principles.
Principle 1: Manage Inbound and Outbound Information
When a crisis breaks out, it is often the case that reporters will begin to call. Most, though, will not have a direct line to your organization’s CEO. Instead, reporter inquiries are often fielded by your frontline staff—receptionists, mail room employees, or mid-level managers. It is essential that all members of your organization, be trained in the basics of crisis management and media response.
Organizations should implement yearly crisis management training and mandate that all employees participate and commit to following the protocols developed by the PR team. At Miller Ink, we host 15-minute training sessions bespoke to every group at an organization—from the C-Suite to the marketing and sales teams to the office staff—to equip all staff with the best practices for crisis response.
Employees should be instructed never to give statements to the media, answer questions, or engage beyond basic pleasantries. We have seen time and time again instances in which staff answer a question that they think is harmless, or say something that they think is meaningless, only to find their words in print, and the crisis significantly inflamed.
Principle 2: Achieve Alignment
Crisis responses are a team effort—and they work best when everyone is working with the same playbook.
It is essential to ensure all members of your team are on the same page when it comes to crisis responses. Every individual at your organization should understand the unique role they will play in navigating a PR crisis.
The best ways to achieve alignment are through preparation and practice. Organizations should proactively train employees in their crisis management protocols so that, if a crisis does in fact unfold, the response feels second nature. Regular practice helps reinforce these protocols and ensures that real-life responses run more smoothly and achieve better results.
Organizations should also designate authorized media spokespeople, the only individuals within the organization who are cleared to give comments to the media. These people are often C-Suite executives, communications directors, or external PR managers. The key is to openly publicize within your organization that these individuals, and these individuals are alone, are the only people authorized to speak with the press. The more your team is on the same page about this protocol, the better you can control for unauthorized—and potentially damaging—statements from seeping into the press.
Principle 3: Work with a Professional Resource
Working with a professional public relations and crisis management firm can help further insulate your organization from reputation damage. Professional PR firms have deep expertise in building proactive campaigns and crisis management protocols and can help train your staff in the best ways to mitigate crisis situations. Crises are too important to leave to chance, and an expert team can help you put in place the protocols and strategies to avoid and mitigate them.