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How to Communicate When A Crisis Occurs

4 minute read - Posted by Daniel Wagstaff on Sep 24, 2018 6:00:00 AM

Studies have shown that 79% of business decision makers believe that they are only 12 months away from a potential crisis. Despite this, only 59% of business decision makers have experienced a crisis in the current or previous company. A scarier statistic is that only 54% of businesses have a developed crisis plan in place. Business crisis situations can occur with little or no warning, often leaving businesses unable to continue trading efficiently and damaging both physical and non-material infrastructure.

There are many different types of natural or man-made disasters facing today’s businesses, these include:

Financial Crisis

Financial Crisis occurs when the business is hit with some type of event that interrupts their financial operations. An example of a financial crisis is a business not having funds to pay its dues such as paying dividends, interests, making repayments of loans etc. Such a crisis arises when the business incurs losses over considerable periods of time or when due to lack of accountability loses consumers’ trust among other situations. This crisis is handled by mobilizing requisite funds as a short-term solution and in taking major financial decisions such as restructuring, changing business operations etc as long term solutions.

Technological Crisis

A common technological crisis includes software failure, industrial accidents etc. The usual means of management would include primarily mitigating the losses and stopping the effects of the failure from affecting more people or elements. The next step would include trying to gain back what was corrupted or lost with the help of experts in the field and would also involve finding the source and reason of the crisis.

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Natural Crisis

A natural crisis refers to those that are created as a direct result of a natural event such as volcano or earthquake etc. These crises are completely out of a management’s hands and cannot be prevented unlike the other crisis. The crisis management steps include evacuating the area and taking mitigating actions as precautions such as building earthquake resistant building, preparing evacuation plans etc beforehand.

Crisis of Malevolence

All businesses compete with each other. But some competitors take such extreme steps that they in fact try to go below the belt and ruin the other business for their own success. Crisis that happens as a result of the extreme tactics employed by a competitor or a miscreant to ruin the business is known as a crisis of malevolence. These crises include those which are created by hacking into a company’s server, tampering with their products etc. The measures include finding the source and minimizing the damage as soon as possible with identifying who perpetrated the crisis.

When a crisis occurs, communication is paramount in order to inform and prepare staff, customers and stakeholders and get all systems running efficiently as quick as possible.

But how should your business communicate in times of crisis? More importantly, what should you have in place in order to best deal with a crisis situation?

Identify And Prepare A Clear And Organized Team

A crisis hits and the sooner you act the better. But who needs to know first? Who needs to start drafting a response? Who needs to investigate the issue?

A structured team with set roles for everyone is important. This stops confusion taking hold from the off and keeps everyone on their own task. Work isn’t doubled up on and you can be agile and swift in your response. The main aim is that once something goes wrong everyone knows what they need to do without being told. You won’t have time to form a team on the spot, so do it in advance.

Identify And Train A Company Spokesperson

Categorically, any organization should ensure, via appropriate policies and training, that only authorized spokespersons speak for it. This is particularly important during a crisis. Each crisis communications team should have people who have been pre-screened, and trained, to be the lead and/or backup spokespersons for different channels of communications.

All organizational spokespersons during a crisis situation must have:

· The right skills

· The right position

· The right training

Create A Prioritized First Contact List

Usually in a crisis you need to tread carefully with communications. Rushing out a public-facing press release can easily go wrong. Often you can take a bit of time before putting out a detailed response to the world.

But for other stakeholders, be they suppliers, investors, or major clients, you may need to be quicker in reassuring them about what’s going on. There’s nothing worse than dealing with an angry public and jittery investor at the same time.

Put together a list of all the people who will need to be contacted as soon as possible in the case of a problem. Think about the best person internally to contact them and make sure they’re included in all discussions around the crisis. You should even prep your tone and plans for making amends for the problem.

Establish And Invest In A Notification and Monitoring System

Today, we need to have – immediately at hand – the means to reach our internal and external stakeholders using multiple modalities. Many of us have several phone numbers, more than one email address, and can receive SMS (text) messages or faxes. Instant Messenger programs, either public or proprietary, are also very popular for business and personal use. We can even send audio and video messages via email. And then, of course, there is social media. This may be the best/fastest way to reach some of our stakeholders. By investing in and preparing an crisis notification system, you can reach out to those that matter as soon as a crisis occurs.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare- Keep a Collectively Cool Approach!

Finally, organization-wide panic is a perfect way to make everything go horribly wrong. Usually, with a plan and all of the above sorted, you can avoid anyone going off message.

Either way, it’s a good idea to get your crisis team to meet regularly, refresh your plans, and keep everyone reassured. Make sure everyone knows the right procedures and the sign off structure so that everything goes as it should.

And in the end, you never know. It might never happen.

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Topics: crisis communications