Create a Crisis Communications Plan Before a Crisis Hits
and Protect Your Company’s Good Name During Difficult Times
No one saw the Corona virus coming and fortunately no businesses were responsible for the crisis. Many, however, recognize and remember some of the more famous corporate crises over the years. From the Tylenol tampering tragedy in the early 1980s to the more recent news about Samsung smartphones catching fire, a negative issue connected to a company is always a possibility, whether the company bears the blame or not. We’ve seen companies address these types of problems with varying success and that is why it’s important for companies and organizations to have a crisis communications plan in place before crisis hits, so they can move quickly and honestly in response.
When creating a crisis communications plan, there are some key things to accomplish. First determine who the key players are and make them part of the crisis communications team. The team should include leaders from the executive, communications and operations departments of the company. Ideally you can identify which member of the group will be the spokesperson, whether it’s the head of the communications department, or the company CEO with the support of a behind-the-scenes communications department.
If and when a crisis does occur, there are critical elements to which the company must try to adhere. First of all, it’s vital to be as transparent as possible. Time and again, the companies that recover best from a crisis are those that engaged with the public about the problem, took responsibility for their role was in the crisis, and kept the lines of communication open. Companies who failed in a crisis, who lost ground with their customers and whose reputations were damaged, were those who incorrectly denied or deflected blame, or that refused to communicate at all. Studies have shown that people forgive those who acknowledge their errors and apologize for them, rather than those who deny involvement or appear not to care.
Another critical element is speed. Very often in a crisis, things are moving quickly. News cycles don’t allow time for a company to take methodical steps or go through long chains of approval. When a company already has the team and plan in place, it can respond more quickly to a fast-moving situation. It’s also important to include employees as an audience. Make sure they hear from leadership about the company’s position as well as a general overview of the plan. Employees then can feel some ownership of the company’s efforts to address the problem, as well as validate the things that are being communicated to the media.
Finally, it’s important to make the company’s reputation a priority in good times as well as bad, so when a crisis occurs, there is some goodwill in the bank. Communicate well with your audience throughout the year, reiterate how you are listening to, and meeting their needs. Support the broader community outside of your business model and share the ways in which you are a good corporate citizen. With these steps, hopefully a crisis is a bump in the road, and the company can move forward quickly.
Commit to Great Internal Communications
and All Benefit
Businesses that enjoy the largest, sustained growth are the ones with the most positive employee engagement, according to a study by the Wall Street Journal. Employees spend a significant amount of time working, so it’s no surprise that when they feel connected to the company and their work is valued, the company thrives. Internal communications plays a big role in fostering the connection between employees and the company.
There are a number of reasons why a strong internal communications program helps the company. One is the sharing of ideas. When communication flows only from the top down, from manager to employee, the company misses out on employee intellectual capital and expertise. Employees need to have open, easily accessible communication channels to their managers as well as to fellow employees. After all, employees are the ones on the front lines, doing the company’s work, day in and day out. If an employee has an idea about how to improve something or execute a task in a new way, that’s valuable information.
In addition, good internal communication creates good external communication. When employees understand and buy into company messaging, they can be the company’s best brand ambassadors, whether talking to customers, potential customers, or their neighbors. But that tactic is only successful when they know company messaging and feel invested in the company’s good name and success.
In our increasingly digital world, employees are not always together in the same location. Some employees might work at a company’s primary physical location, some will work from home, and others might be in the company’s satellite or branch offices. Technology is available to connect those workers together, but it must be used. Regular online meetings coupled with occasional in-person meetings help to foster those connections.
There are additional tactics companies can take to foster great internal communications. Company chat software can be a great tool for your company or organization, several of which are tailored to small business needs. These platforms include collaboration tools, one-on-one instant messaging, group chat rooms, file sharing, screen sharing and video conferencing. Cloud technology such as Google Drive also can bring everyone under a single umbrella. These new tools enable employees to spend less time on one of the biggest time drains: e-mail overload. They also enable communication to be visual and verbal, rather than just the printed word.
Adding fun and team building to the mix can also foster employee buy-in. Millennials who have come of age with round-the-clock, cross-platform connectedness especially appreciate mixing work and social environments. Fun competitions and communication can be created using company chat software.
And while all of these tools enable great communication with employees, it is important to remember that better communication is preferable to more communication. Make sure company message are clear and on-point but that workers are not being inundated with them. After all, your team still needs to get their work done, and they will appreciate managers who let them do just that. Finally, make sure messaging is always truthful and shares as much concrete information as possible. When everyone is in the loop and on board, the company — as a whole — benefits.
Why Hire a Public Relations Firm?
Organizations often reach a critical point when they must decide whether to hire a PR firm. Sometimes a crisis has occurred, and the organization is playing communications catch-up. Or you have simply noticed your organization could do a better job communicating with its various audiences.
What are some of the key reasons to hire a PR firm?
– To better reach potential customers, vendors, and regulatory bodies. In our complex industry, there are a lot of audiences. Not just our customers, but all of the vendors and sub-contractors that make up our organizations. And we can’t forget that public works and governmental bodies are part of the mix. The image we project in this public domain is important. A PR firm can work with you to nail down exactly how to reach these different groups.
– To position you as an expert in the field. Let’s face it, this industry is big and its technical. A PR firm can help position key players within your organization as experts in the field, shining a positive light on the organization. They can help with speaking engagements for senior staff and create articles bylined by experts within the organization.
– To help get your message across in conversations with the media. A PR firm can help be the conduit between you and the media. PR firms bring their own contacts and relationships with influencers, so they can help you tell your story to the right people.
– Fresh Perspective. An outside agency will take a fresh look at your organization’s communications efforts and help make sure your best practices really are the best, most current tactics out there.
Is Your Organization Communicating Effectively?
Let’s Take A Look.
“The difference between mere management and leadership is communication.” –Winston Churchill
Communication is one of the most important components of a successful business. At its most basic level, effective communication, both internal and external, ensures that employees understand the company’s goal and objectives, and customers understand what the company has to offer and how to take the next step. Study after study has shown good communication improves employee morale, because employees who understand company goals and objectives can better help the company reach those goals and objectives, and take pride in their work as they do it.
Communication doesn’t have to be hard – it’s not mysterious and it can even be fun. Think Twitter and other social media. But it needs to be applied consistently and proactively. Companies that are proactive with their communications – controlling their message instead of reacting, or worse remaining silent – will have a much easier time reaching their employees and customers in a positive way.
To begin with, do an honest analysis of your organization’s communications as they stand. What channels does the company use to communicate with employees? How does the company communicate with customers? With potential customers? How is the company perceived externally? Does the company have a presence in social media and online, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn? This can be a tedious task, but it’s important to do an audit of all communications tools and channels to see what is currently being used, as well as gauge the perception of the company, internally and externally.
At this point, it’s important to nail down messaging. What do you want to communicate to employees, customers and potential customers? Are there additional audiences you can identify that you’d like to reach? What did you find in your audit that you’d like to change?
And then you’re ready to create an easy-to-follow Communications Playbook. A Communications Playbook is a way to map out what you would like to communicate in the future, a calendar or schedule of when you’ll communicate, what channels you’ll use to communicate, and who will do the communicating. Elements of a communications playbook can include:
• Goals and Objectives for the year
• A list of Communications Contacts. It’s important to have someone who knows company messaging to do the communicating, because messaging must be consistent.
• On that note, what is your Messaging. Nail it down and stick to it.
• An Editorial Calendar. An editorial calendar is where you can get pretty specific, identifying what you’re going to post on Twitter, for example, and on what date. It should include all your external and internal communications channels, including newsletters, social media, your website. It also should include any proactive media relations you’ll conduct, such as contacting trade publications or other media with story ideas and article placements.
Finally, you’ll want to keep an eye on results. Are your communications efforts achieving the goals you’ve set? What can be tweaked to make your company’s communications even better. Once you begin to implement your Communications Playbook, you’ll be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your company’s communications.