By Rachel Sherman
Our recent webinar discussion on Crisis Communications Best Practices brought together a panel of experts featuring Tim Human from IR magazine, Amanda Pierce from Burson-Marsteller, Blaise Robinson of Reuters News, and moderator Michael Bergmeijer from Reuters News. The panel shared their perspective on planning for, managing and, effectively communicating in a crisis situation. If you missed the webinar or would like to watch it again, it is available on demand. We’ve also put together some key takeaways from the discussion that you can use to help prepare for a crisis.
Research from Burson-Marsteller found that 79% of surveyed companies believe they’re only 12 months from a potential crisis. The majority of companies responding to an IR magazine survey prioritize protection of their corporate reputation over stock price and shareholder retention in the event of a crisis. With such a valuable corporate asset at stake, it’s important to be prepared.
- Have a crisis communication plan so you’re ready to respond quickly when time is of the essence.
- Practice your plan before a crisis so you’re prepared when things become hectic.
- Train staff to handle a crisis situation and have the right resources in place.
- While advisers from outside the company can be helpful resources, the company in crisis should be the face of the communications and those communications should be tailored to the locale that is affected.
What journalists want.
Blaise Robinson of Reuters outlined some of the expectations that journalists have during a crisis.
- Build a relationship with media in the quiet times so that you’ll be able to trust they will stick to an embargo and report the facts during a crisis.
- If a crisis does occur, be available and responsive even if you don’t have all the answers right away. Journalists want to know that you are accessible and dependable.
- Be transparent, honest, stick to the facts, and avoid spin.
The role of digital.
Amanda Pierce of Burson-Marsteller provided some helpful rules of engagement for crisis communications in the digital space:
- Engage in this space in peace time
- Everything happens at lightning speed
- Listening becomes even more important
- Social media is a level playing field
- Dialogue is as important as the message
- Volume of response must match the outcry
It’s not over until it’s over.
After you breathe a sigh of relief post-crisis, make sure that you conduct a thorough review of the situation and the outcome. Ask yourself if your plan was effective:
- Were you highly communicative, fast and transparent?
- Were there inaccuracies being reported and if so, what role might you have played in them?
- What could you do differently or better?
Your review will help prepare you for the next crisis situation, which hopefully is far off into the future!