Communicating in Crisis

by Spark + Buzz
March 17, 2020

Communicating in times of crisis is as important, if not more important, than your regular day-to-day communication strategies. When a crisis is upon your business, how you respond will either bolster your credibility or undermine all you have worked so hard to achieve. Know that it is also likely you will be judged in the court of public opinion.

All too often, the importance of proactive, strategic communication is downplayed. While strategic communication should be a priority year-round, sometimes it’s only a focus in times of true crisis. A crisis can be anything that threatens your business reputation or disrupts your business operations.

For many, the recent coronavirus outbreak is a crisis. Regardless of what you are facing, consistent, clear and timely communication is the bedrock of weathering the storm. Here are some communication tips for managing a crisis situation:

+ Have a crisis communication plan in place. Preparation is the best form of prevention. This plan should outline various crisis scenarios and the stance your business will take. It should also appoint a key spokesperson and outline a plan for communicating to your variety of constituents, whether employees, customers or clients.

+Communicate quickly and concisely. During a crisis, you do not have the luxury of time on your side (hence why a crisis plan is important). You need to control your story and the only way to do that is to get ahead of the media cycle by you breaking the news, rather than scrambling to react to the news.

+Control your narrative. You will not have the luxury to wait for all the pieces of information when the media is on your doorstep, or if it is a safety concern. Communicate swiftly with the most critical and factual information you have at the time. Be mindful that as you learn more, the communication will evolve and change. What you say, as much as what you don’t say, is important, so ensure you have a strategic communications counselor to guide your messaging.

+Communicate to those affected. Be sure that the first people to hear of a crisis are those directly affected by the crisis. While it may also be important for the public to know, your inner circle must know first (employees, clients, etc.). This builds trust and transparency. Also ensure you are consistent in both your internal and external messaging.

+Cooperate with the media. Be conscientious of a reporter’s deadlines and do your best to provide timely information that also reinforces your narrative. If the media sees you as cooperative things are likely to go much more smoothly. However, if you are evasive, non-responsive, or appear to be hiding something, it will only cause the media to further scrutinize your efforts.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these tips will help you begin to plan for your worst-case scenario. If you are in the midst of a crisis or need help creating a strategic crisis communications plan, contact Spark + Buzz Communications today for consultation. We will help you communicate your story in good times and in bad.