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Crisis Communication Management

Posted By Katie Wilkerson, Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Updated: Thursday, October 16, 2014
Untitled Document

How to Land on Your Feet When the Floor Caves In

By instinct, humans are wired to panic in times of distress. Fight or flight. But are these really the only options? When a crisis happens, the most important thing to do is breathe. Close your eyes and take 10 seconds to prepare yourself for what happens next. Now, open your eyes, put on your game face and let’s get to work.

When a crisis strikes, always remember that good communication is crucial. Being able to disseminate information to your stakeholders and the media in a clear, concise and timely manner can help save an organization’s reputation.

No one and no organization is invincible. Mistakes are inevitable and the only way to face them is to be prepared. And unfortunately, crossing your fingers will not suffice. Having a clear-cut plan in place prior to having a crisis on the horizon will give you a running start.

Just like snowflakes, no two crises are the same. However, many have the same characteristics and can be dealt with in much the same fashion. Because of this, steps have been developed as a blueprint crisis communication management plan. When a disaster is in sight, these steps can be the key to survival.

Step 1: See it coming
Anticipate a crisis before it happens. Have a specific plan in place for all possible situations. If the day ever comes that you need to be on the defensive, you will be ready to stand up and take action.

Step 2: Pinpoint your crisis communication team
Before a crisis hits have your team assembled, trained and prepared to face it. The team should be aware of all plans.

Step 3: Choose spokespersons
It is important to have a clear voice during times of crisis. Choose your spokesperson wisely. This person (or persons) need to be able to communicate effectively, efficiently and in a timely matter to those needing answers. The best spokespersons are knowledgeable, both of the organization and the crisis, and credible.

Step 4: Prep spokespersons
Do not send someone into the lion’s den without first teaching them how to tame the lion. Be sure to train the spokespersons on how to act in front of the camera and media, how to respond to specific questions and what can and cannot be disclosed. They should have a solid set of talking points and key messages in-hand. The number one rule of a spokesperson is to never say “no comment”; whether the fault is yours or not, this makes you look guilty and dismissive.

Step 5: Institute notification and monitoring systems
Back in the good ol’ days, the media was limited to the use of phones and fax to spread the word of current news. Now, they have the ability to spread the word at their fingertips through email, websites, and social media. It is important to set up systems to monitor both the media and feedback from those important to your organization.

It is equally important to use these immediate outlets to reach your stakeholders, employees and others invested in your organization. The news will, without a doubt, be better received coming from the source as opposed to the media. Being the first to comment is essential.

Step 6: Identify stakeholders
Identify those who are important to your organization. These are the people to focus on; you want them on your team. How you handle the crisis will be reflected in how others perceive the organization. Be upfront with stakeholders, explain how you are correcting the mistakes and deliver results.

Step 7: Develop and keep holding statements on hand
Holding statements are generic comments that can be altered and used immediately after a crisis hits. These should be developed and reviewed regularly by the crisis management team.

Step 8: Assess the crisis
Once a crisis hits, gather any and all information you can. Every single fact and development is helpful as your form your responses and develop your action plan. This is most effectively done by having a plan and team in place prior to a crisis occurring.

Step 9: Key messages
Aside from the holding statements, the team should develop statements specific to the crisis. These statements should be simple, factual and in the interest of the stakeholders.

Step 10: Analysis
After a crisis, a thorough assessment of what went right, what went wrong, and what could be improved upon must be done. This allows you to strengthen your crisis management plan and better prepare your organization for the next possible disaster.

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