Updated: Dec 19, 2022
There was a study published about the highest stress jobs, and “PR Director” was in the top five of the list – right under firefighters, police officer and other people who might get shot or killed for a living. While there were some quizzical looks when I would bring this up in a conversation, my peers immediately would feel a little relieved, “yes, people actually understand that this job is stressful!”
While each crisis communications opportunity has unique dynamics, there are a few general rules of thumb that should be kept in mind.
1. Mobilizing quickly is good. Freaking out is not.
Keeping cool, calm nerves will be critical, but adding more panic to an already boiling situation will not be helpful.
2. Get the facts … as many as you can.
Be careful not to take just one side of a situation. Talk to parties from a few sides of the circumstance to avoid making any snap judgments or statements that will be disproven later.
3. Gather the core team.
Hopefully, you’ve already predetermined who needs to be in this and just must flip a switch to activate. Recruit an external crisis specialist if needed for bandwidth or depth of crisis communications expertise.
4. Decide reaction approach.
Not all crisis situations need a statement, and if a statement or a position will be too late or given after the crisis has passed, you can do more damage and prolong the bleeding. Some crisis situations also could have fallout for days, weeks or months, and some have the potential to pop up again at different stages. Decide what approach will work best.
5. Craft an initial statement framework.
Be sensitive with this and consider all audiences who may be impacted by the crisis and how you would feel if you heard this statement. Even if you don’t know everything yet, there can be a good balance between “no comment” and offering too many unconfirmed details.
6. Identify and train spokespeople.
If you have leaders who potentially could have a camera shoved in their face, invest in media training to prepare them as a part of their onboarding then doing an annual refresh will be a best practice. If you have not pre-trained anyone, then quickly crafting a standard, warm and open statement and getting it in their hands will be paramount.
7. Monitor all channels and refine.
Make sure someone on your core team is tasked with monitoring and analyzing all channels for new information, new voices of concern and potential traps that may lay ahead. There could be “day two” stories that arise that offer more insights or opportunities to shine.
While these seven general steps for managing crisis communications can be a helpful guide, each crisis comes with its own unique circumstance and should be carefully planned for in advance. How your company handles a crisis can be either a potential opportunity to showcase your trustworthiness or a miserable failure that can be unrecoverable.
If you want to talk through your organization’s crisis communications plan with one of our strategists, contact us today for a free initial consultation.