When disaster strikes, people often panic and forget logic and common sense. They make rash, impulsive decisions that have long-lasting negative consequences because they act in haste after failing to plan ahead.
Crisis response should never involve guesswork. Every business, nonprofit organization and government agency should create an action plan ahead of time so when an emergency occurs, they know exactly what to do.
Handling a crisis effectively is like putting out a fire: A slow response puts lives and livelihoods at risk because fires spread quickly and grow exponentially more damaging in just minutes. Firefighters know what to do because they train extensively for emergencies and respond quickly with a calculated plan of attack.
Crisis communications require similar preparation. The quicker the response, the easier it is to limit damage and regain control of the narrative. But it requires being proactive and making plans before you need them.
Consider the 2020 Grammy Award show, which could have been disastrous, with the untimely death of basketball great Kobe Bryant in addition to serious accusations of discrimination and sexual harassment that had been leveled at the Academy of Recording Artists.
The Grammys addressed Bryant’s tragic death by tagging onto an already-planned tribute to the late hip hop artist Nipsey Hussle and quelled the other controversies by choosing the enormously talented singer/songwriter Alicia Keys to emcee the event. Keys smoothed over the triple threat with aplomb. As a dynamic woman of color, she was able to unite the crowd, despite the swirling accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the Academy.
Here are five reasons for you to create a crisis response plan before you actually need one:
Different crises call for different responses.
Take time to outline specific contingency plans for disruptive events like hurricanes, disease outbreaks, workplace shootings and natural disasters. Each instance will require different actions.
When emergencies occur, emotions run high and the need for clear communication is more important than ever. Having a crisis plan in place before a crisis actually takes place ensures that you have a way to reach employees, whether they are working remotely, offsite or not at all.
Technology is key to maintaining communication, and a mobile communication solution may be the easiest way to keep employees informed about their jobs and responsibilities, company openings and closures, changing work hours and other personnel updates.
Rumors abound during a crisis.
A crisis plan should include communications that clarify facts and debunk misinformation since rumors can proliferate and swirl out of control. For example, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic spawned wild rumors that ranged from helicopters spraying neighborhoods with disinfectant to fighting off sickness by drinking bleach in order to kill coronavirus germs.
Employers should never rely on the random opinions of those who are online but instead seek out facts from credible experts. Sharing those facts with your employees and discouraging the spread of rumors is extremely important, and managing misinformation is essential to successfully navigating a crisis.
Proactive crisis management reduces the impact of a crisis.
Company leadership must participate in crisis management exercises so that crisis response plans are tailored around the company’s industry and the specific roles of team members. You don’t know how someone will react during a crisis until they are faced with one. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
It is better to find out during an exercise than during a true emergency. Have you chosen the right people for your crisis response team? Do they react well under pressure? Have you selected a company spokesperson who is comfortable fielding questions and sharing information?
Finding the right people for the right jobs should be done before an emergency occurs, since selecting key crisis personnel on the fly is risky and can do long-term damage to the company’s reputation.
A comprehensive social media policy can hold a crisis in check.
Most disasters that spin out of control do so online. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, companies must continuously monitor their social media channels, communicate on them and be prepared to respond to scandals and other PR crises quickly.
A brewing online tiff can erupt into a full-blown crisis in a very short time. Having a social media policy in place that addresses feedback and commentary is necessary to tamp down rumors, share facts and address falsehoods.
A crisis management plan will address and outline how the social media accounts will be monitored so nothing slips through the cracks.
Being prepared can save money, time and reputations.
The consequences of mishandling a disaster are real. Investing a modest amount in drafting a crisis PR plan is a much more cost-effective choice than being forced to hire a crisis PR agency forced to start at square one while the controversy rages.
For executives and business owners, it is increasingly necessary to take crisis management seriously and plan ahead. Creating a crisis PR plan before you need one ensures that when disaster strikes, you have a well-prepared team ready to execute a solid and detailed plan.
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