Both Volkswagen and Enron have been on the receiving end of a public relations crisis. One firm has just announced the launch of a next-generation product—and the other filed for bankruptcy more than 15 years ago. The difference? Good communication.
In a world where a negative comment or online review can be the difference between a business’s success or failure, good communication is essential to a brand’s survival.
No company is ever immune to a crisis, but the way in which they react to one when it strikes is perhaps the most important strategy in the business handbook. While you can never really predict when a crisis will strike, you can formulate strategies in preparation for that inevitable day.
Here are three tips to get you started:
- Make crisis communication a business priority.
Many brands make the often-fatal mistake of only thinking about crisis PR and crisis communication when they are already amid a game-changing controversy. By this time, they are forced to race around trying to contact the right people and stay abreast of events, while also trying to deliver an effective message and put out the figurative flames.
Take advantage of current downtime to organize your thoughts and figure out where you stand. Brainstorm potential threats to your business, and research other business’ experiences while you reflect on best practice. Only then will you be able to expertly form some appropriate responses when a crisis rears its head.
- Establish a crisis communication team.
Many businesses have a designated crisis communication team in place, either in-house or sourced from outside. If you don’t have anything resembling a crisis team, you need to form one.
Ideally, this team will be made up of your CEO, your communications director, legal advisors, financial representatives and your customer service executive. For smaller businesses, a smaller team will suffice—just make sure you cover these bases.
If you do have a crisis communications team, make sure you’re meeting with them on an appropriately regular basis. While no one likes a meeting for meetings’ sake, it is important that you and your team remain on the same page regarding your business’ crisis communication strategy.
- Do a practice run—or two!
Practice does, after all, make perfect—and aphorism that is no less true in the world of crisis communications.
A useful exercise for your organization and your crisis communication team would be to imagine a likely crisis scenario and run a crisis management simulation. This is a great way to see if your crisis communication plan is actually effective and if your team is up to the task.
Practice runs are a win-win scenario: if all goes well, you can be more confident in your brand’s ability to handle a crisis when it strikes. If there are gaps in your preparation, it is better to realize them now than when during a real crisis situation.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a PR Agency.