Top ten crisis communications tips

How we handle difficult situations can really show our true colours and it’s the same with any business or organisation. How you handle a crisis can either be positive for, or damaging to, your reputation and people will remember how you responded. They’ll remember the actions you took and how you made them feel.

It sounds scary doesn’t it? When we say the word ‘crisis’ our brains associate it with something negative and serious, but it’s actually pretty normal and most businesses at some point need some element of crisis comms. It’s all about effective and considered communication and reputation management.

Here are a few of my top tips…

  1. Stay calm (might seem obvious, but it’s super important)
  2. Understand the situation and get your facts straight. Let me repeat that…GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT.  You can’t respond to anything (well) if you don’t have all the information 
  3. Be crystal clear on your messaging – remember who you are, your tone of voice and how you want to be perceived. Think long-term impact and not just short-term answers 
  4. Prioritise and act swiftly. Clear your schedule, because chances are this is going to be more important than anything else in your diary that day. At the same time, don’t rush to get a statement issued if you’re not confident you’re ready and are still waiting on key information
  5. Do not say ‘no comment’. Delay a response if you need to, but don’t say this
  6. Pre-empt and prepare. Wherever possible potential crises should be predicted and planned for. Consider likely situations and have template statements and a plan of action in place
  7. Have a designated person to manage the situation and organise a response. Have a clear sign off process and prepare spokespeople thoroughly for any interviews if this is necessary
  8. Show you care and are keen to be as helpful as possible. Do not be dismissive, defensive or deny any truths
  9. Be honest and provide appropriate information without making matters worse. This will generally focus on – you’re aware of the situation, you care, you’re doing everything in your power to rectify it and will be looking to take measures to understand what’s happened, why it’s happened and will strive to ensure it doesn’t happen again (this is very generic, but you see where I’m going with it) 
  10. Use a skilled professional to help you ensure you share the right information in the right way. This is perhaps my most important point – seek advice. 

If you take away one thing from reading these tips, let it be preparation. The Scouts really do have it right – BE PREPARED. Some crises are unpredictable but being in a crisis situation is not. Even if you can’t prepare for a specific situation, you can have a plan and processes in place to ensure that when the unforeseeable does happen, your response can be as strategic and smoothly executed as possible.

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