If you had asked me last year what 2020 had in store, a global pandemic that forces everyone indoors and pauses the economy would have been last on my list.
All businesses have had to swiftly adapt to this new environment in one way or another and learn how to operate effectively in the new normal.
While you may have a crisis management or business continuity plan to dust off and finally put to the test, are you confident that it will actually work?
As a fully integrated marketing and communications agency that specialises in risk and crisis communication, issues management and strategic planning, the last few months have been an interesting time for us and our clients. In recent months we have worked alongside a number of businesses in the aged care, fitness and professional services sectors to ensure preparedness and resilience should a crisis hit.
Taking action now to mitigate the impact of the pandemic will reap invaluable rewards for your business. It’s a win, win situation. If there is a crisis that directly affects your organisation, you have a robust plan on ice to immediately implement that protects both the business and its staff. If you don’t ever need it, well that’s just a bonus, but you can confidently say you know how to manage one if the time comes.
Check out my top tips below on how businesses can best prepare for a crisis, which goes far beyond drafting an initial crisis management plan.
Now is the time to audit any content you or your predecessors have developed for the company when it comes to crisis communications. If you find an existing plan on file, the chances are it will be in need of a refresh. If you can’t find one, now it is the perfect opportunity to create one.
The purpose of a crisis communication plan is to manage a business’ reputational risk and direct the communication approach accordingly. It can be broad and relate to various issues, or more specific and focused on one key area such as COVID-19. This ‘go-to’ document ensures clear, calm and accurate communication activities that are respectful and compassionate towards any stakeholders that may be impacted.
From outlining the goals, objectives and approach, establishing a crisis management team (CMT) and determining a response plan to crafting all supporting documentation including key messages, holding statements, FAQs and more, there is a significant investment needed up front to prepare for a crisis that will save you a mountain of time in the long run.
Part of formulating a plan involves establishing a CMT. This is a group of colleagues who have clear roles and responsibilities when a crisis hits the organisation. These roles are critical and can include, but are not limited to:
Familiarise yourself with each person’s duties and make sure you stick to it. When a crisis occurs, it is important not to panic and assume responsibilities for all roles. You are prepared and you know what steps you need to take to protect the brand’s reputation and keep stakeholders informed.
Going beyond that we also see value in establishing a Crisis Communication Team (CCT) within the CMT. This often involves a separate group of communication experts whose roles and responsibilities can be delegated and split up into various sub-categories. Initial questions you need to ask yourself include: Who will be the company spokesperson? Who is managing the liaison and approvals of all content? Who is taking over digital and social media channels? Who is drafting, filming and/or distributing all the content?
Working from home doesn’t mean that you can’t host media training sessions and build up the confidence of your spokespeople. Thanks to videoconference platforms such as Zoom, we can secure that ‘face time’ with the C-suite Executives who often act as the company spokespeople.
This time should be used very carefully where key messages are rehearsed, real life case studies are discussed, and roleplay interviews are conducted. It is also an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the media landscape and what kind of situations the company may be faced with. As an example, how to respond in an ABC interview versus a media stop with A Current Affair changes significantly.
By the end of the session, company spokespeople should feel more confident about responding to a crisis with media.
What’s the point of preparing an abundance of communication collateral if your channels fail you? Running a mock scenario in your organisation puts your processes to test and irons out any issues ahead of time.
For instance, if you have developed a robust plan around a staff member testing positive for COVID-19, your critical channels must work. Your priority is to keep internal and external stakeholders informed through a variety of mediums, without oversharing or being too reactive. These mediums may include your website, SMS alerts, social media posts, emails, letters, call centres and so on.
You’ve drafted all the messaging, so now what? Here are some questions you need to consider:
There are several processes that need to be running like a swiss watch before a crisis arrives so that when it does, you know exactly what to do.
Our team of communication professionals are experts in our field and can help guide you through this critical time.