Anyone remember having fire drills in grade school? It was actually quite exciting, the alarm bell sounded, and students filed out to the playground to enjoy a few extra minutes of sunshine. As fun it is was, we were being taught a valuable lesson. In times of crisis, preparation pays off. So it is surprising that within our companies, many of us are not adequately prepared for the unexpected. When a PR crisis rears its ugly head, you should be ready. Here are a few tips to ensure you take a proactive approach to crisis communications:
1. Assemble a Crisis Response Team.
In most crises, employees have a tendency to panic. To prevent a full-on frenzy, assemble a crisis response team that is appointed to respond to the media and distribute information internally. They should each have a defined role and be very clear on their responsibilities, which could include:
- Updating the website
- Managing social media
- Speaking to the media
- Drafting official statements
- Drafting talking points
- Answering phones
- Releasing official statements
It is a good idea to invest time in extensive media training for anyone that will be authorized to speak to the media. You should also ensure your entire staff knows who is on the crisis response team and that they have access to multiple numbers where the crisis response team can be reached.
2. Run “fire drills.”
Most of our first responders are taught by using mock scenarios. Firefighters practice putting out fires and police officers respond to simulated crimes. YOUR first responders should be no different. A great way to prepare for crisis is to actually practice mock crises. Gather a group of your key employees and talk through all the possibilities. Get creative and think of every possible situation that could strike. You can never be too careful.
3. Make sure your PR person is accessible to staff.
Reporters don’t always know who the approved PR person is and they just want the facts. They will take whatever they are told and run with it. Why wouldn’t they? God forbid your receptionist transfers a reporter to an overly opinionated intern. Who knows what kind of story could come out? Have one person in charge of the media and make sure you identify this person to everyone: your CEO, your receptionist, your dog, EVERYONE.
4. Appoint someone to distribute talking points. ASAP.
Ensure you write up key messaging and distribute it internally. You should always be sure that your communication is open, honest, clear, and consistent. This way, staff knows how to address questions in a way that is in line with your organization.
5. Control your social media, internally and externally.
Hopefully, by this time you have a clearly defined social media policy within your company. If not, it is probably time to get one. It’s always important to know what employees have access to your company social media when you need it most. During a crisis, ensure your social media team is sticking to the talking points and responding to inquiries in a way that is clear, concise, and consistent. You can also utilize social media to distribute official statements that link back to your website.
These are just five steps that will help you be better prepared for the unexpected. Remember, failure to plan is a plan to fail! What are your tips for responding to crisis? Let us know in the comments below!