Five lesser-known crisis communications considerations
Crisis communications – how organisations respond to challenging situations and engage with their stakeholders – are often a source of fascination for people who may not generally think about the vagaries of corporate reputation. However, the realities of dealing with a serious reputational crisis may not always match outside expectations.
When organisations face a reputational threat, any response is more pressured than ever. News moves at a breakneck pace, third parties are quick to wade in and, when things get really tough, social media can seem an un-killable hydra. Reputations can be won or lost in an instant.
Recent experience of several intensely contested communications situations have highlighted the following perhaps lesser-known features of a crisis response:
- It can be hard to determine when an issue becomes a full-blown crisis. Often, human instinct is to downplay a negative, or even bury heads in sand and hope it will go away, until it is too late to realise that it won’t. Having a clear escalation or issue identification process can temper these risks.
- The crisis manual, if an organisation has one, will almost inevitably be out of date, or missing key elements. The existence of a crisis manual can be a comfort, but when was the last time someone looked at it? Even the simplest details, like out-of-hours contact details can quickly be out of date, and can cause a real headache if things get frantic.
- A key person will be on holiday or otherwise uncontactable at a key moment. It’s just the way it goes. Building in backup plans – including contingency resource or external crisis communications experts – and having clear alternative lines of sign-off is crucial.
- There will suddenly be a lot of people within an organisation trying to get involved in a response. Subject matter experts are key, but without clear roles things can quickly get bogged down and leave an organisation way behind the story. At the same time, core team members may also react in unexpected ways to the pressure, and if it’s a prolonged crisis, the risk of burnout becomes a real consideration.
- Every crisis does come to an end, but all too often so much energy has been expended on the response, that there is little left in the tank to formulate a longer term recovery plan.
If you would like to find out more about how Charlotte Street Partners’ team of crisis specialists can help your business prepare effectively for a challenging communications situation, find out more, or get in touch.