By Evan Nierman, founder & CEO of Red Banyan, an international crisis communications firm, and author of Amazon bestseller Crisis Averted.
Communication in business is important for fostering relationships between staff and management, improving morale and efficiency and keeping employees in the loop. Communication breakdowns can be disastrous and have a far-reaching impact.
The United States’ disjointed crisis response during the pandemic is a prime example of why good crisis communications make a difference. During the pandemic, misinformation proliferated because government agencies, religious groups and even health organizations promoted mixed messages that were often confusing and conflicting.
Crisis planning provides clarity.
Effective communications can increase compliance, improve productivity and even save lives. Having the ability to aggregate information; present ideas in a clear, understandable format; and communicate with your target audience—where they are and on their own terms—is essential. Yet so many organizations fail to take even the most rudimentary steps when it comes to crisis communications planning.
A Brookings Institute study concluded that the U.S. could greatly benefit from a pandemic communications unit that would focus on public communications instead of various notices on quarantines, medical equipment supplies and travel restrictions.
According to that study, the proposed public communications unit should build networks among local, state and federal authorities as part of a coordinated public communications strategy to implement during a crisis.
Create a crisis plan before you need one.
The Brookings study conclusion reflects the foundation for all successful crisis communications strategies: Create a crisis communications plan before you need one and then follow it when an emergency occurs. Knowing who to contact during a disaster and how to reach that party when normal lines of communication have been disrupted can mean the difference between success and failure.
The message, while aimed at the federal healthcare response, is wholly transferrable to business and underscores the value of creating a crisis PR plan, which can increase compliance and even save lives.
The Brookings article said a “robust” crisis communications infrastructure is essential for coordinating public communications strategies. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine also concluded that better crisis communications are necessary for handling future pandemics after researchers met with a wide range of diverse parties who weighed in on communication shortfalls.
The key crisis communications conclusions are transferrable to business:
1. Communications must be grounded in reliable data and include the areas most impacted. Extra effort must be made to ensure communications reach at-risk and underserved populations in emergencies.
2. Messaging must be understandable and delivered by trusted messengers so the information is received by all affected parties.
3. Misinformation and disinformation must be corrected quickly.
4. Extra efforts must be taken to contact vulnerable or difficult-to-reach groups.
A crisis response plan serves as a guideline for businesses to follow during an emergency, disaster or another unexpected event. Such plans include what steps to take first and how to communicate with employees, partners, customers, media, the general public and any other valuable stakeholders.
Crisis planning provides a road map.
Crisis communications are reactive but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan. In fact, experienced crisis response professionals rarely leave crisis planning to chance or to the last minute. Instead, strategic crisis planners map out a tentative crisis plan ahead of time and also create a backup plan long before any is needed. A few of the critical elements of every crisis plan should be knowing who to contact in a crisis, who will serve as a company spokesperson and where important company information will be posted.
Crisis communications in business can focus on everything from personnel matters to safety concerns in buildings where employees work. Whatever the issue, companies need a plan to get information out fast to the affected parties so any fallout is addressed.
Some of the most common crises include:
• Financial loss such as announcing a bankruptcy or store closures
• Personnel changes that may affect operations or company reputation like employee layoffs or problematic behavior
• Organizational issues such as apologizing for misconduct or wrongdoing as a result of company practices
• Technological failures that result in outages that affect a company’s ability to conduct business
• Natural disasters that necessitate announcements or changes in procedures
Whether you are trying to create a comprehensive crisis response to a pandemic or outline a detailed crisis communications plan for your business, there are five very important things you need to do: follow your plan, stay calm, manage your own response, handle challenging questions and consider the best way to get information to all the relevant stakeholders.
Hope for the best and plan for the worst so you can thoughtfully prepare for the unexpected and be ready to address a wide range of emergency scenarios. Media relations training, reputation rehabilitation, strategic communications, on-camera spokesperson training and crisis communications are all areas that can come into play during a crisis.
Source by www.forbes.com