Nothing like a periodic reminder to make sure your organization has, or has recently reviewed and updated, a crisis communications strategy. The recent day-long Rogers outage provided a good case study highlighting areas where a previously developed, approved, and rehearsed crisis communications strategy is essential.
As a strategic communications professional, here are five observations that are helpful reminders for communicators, including myself. Some of these are based on how Rogers managed their communications and some of these are general tips for crisis communications.
1. Be timely
When you first hear reports that something is wrong, share that info in some way with your audiences. This needs to happen ASAP (within 15 minutes of the first reports) to reassure your audience that you're aware something may be happening and looking into it.
2. Update often
Provide regular updates thereafter, every 30 minutes or so, to let folks know that you're still on it and provide any updated information that you may have about the problem.
3. Spokesperson = top leader
If the crisis is severe (such as your company is no longer providing every service it says it provides), it is ideal to have your president as the spokesperson in order to establish that you understand the severity of the situation.
4. Review scheduled posts/emails
Assess what other communications you have scheduled for the time period during the crisis. Are there pre-scheduled social media posts or emails that will seem out of place? If you're a service provider and your service is down, it would be tremendous if the first email your customers received from you after service is restored isn't a bill.
5. Apologize authentically
If you apologize, ensure it's meaningful, heartfelt, and empathetic. Demonstrate that you as an organization understand the impact this has had on your customers and what you will be doing to rectify it.
Develop some pre-approved messaging that can be used for the early communications. When a crisis hits, it's critical that an early response of some kind is issued (see #1).
How your organization communicates during a crisis will make or break the relationships with your existing partners, stakeholders, or customers. Carve out time today to review or create a crisis communications strategy. I hope you never have to use it, but if a crisis does occur, at least you'll be prepared for how to communicate with your audiences.
Banner photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash