4 tips for successful crisis communication

How to succeed in crisis communication? Remember to catch early warning signals, make a plan, monitor publicity and engage in the conversations.

Corporate crisis can spark almost anytime, anywhere "“ the cause can be a Facebook conversation in the middle of the night, one inconsiderate tweet, an unpredictable event or a scandalous news story. Today’s crises are multi-channel, they travel wide and escalate quickly. How to prepare for, manage and communicate about your crisis?

  1. 1. Catch the early warnings

You can never foretell with certainty what your next crisis will be. However, you can predict the possible crises in order to be better prepared. For example scenario analysis identifies the major future disruptions for your business. It is conducted through a wide scale of actions, including, for example, market environment research, media monitoring and interviews of key players in the field. Scenario analysis studies current trends and the uncertainties within them to create future scenarios.

 

When you make sure you’re forewarned about possible future crises, you minimize the risk of getting caught by surprise. If your senses are alert, you might even be able to prevent the crisis from materializing.

 

  1. 2. Make a crisis communication plan

In order to handle your crisis when it hits, make a crisis communication plan: How you are going to communicate? Which channels will you use? Who is in charge and who is the back-up? How will you make sure that requisite and timely information is delivered to the staff?

 

Base your plans on the early warnings you have gotten from scenario analysis or other business intelligence signals. Still, remember that your crisis communication plan has to be so flexible that you can apply it also to those black swans couldn’t be predicted. If needed, make multiple crisis management plans for different situations, and apply the most suitable one when needed.

 

If you’re caught off guard, a crisis situation can cause remarkable damage to your reputation. Organizing your crisis communication while the catastrophe is already coming on full steam, will make your reaction hopelessly slow. In addition, the rush often leads to hasty decisions.

 

  1. 3. Monitor the crisis

It is essential to monitor your publicity, especially during a crisis. Monitor both traditional and social media.

 

Pay attention to the most common topics and questions that rise repeatedly in the conversations. Find out the loudest voices and opinion leaders. Observe whether the information about you and the crisis is correct or not. Misinformation spreads quickly, particularly in a crisis. And the farther the misinformation travels, the harder it will be to redress it.

 

  1. 4. Engage

Monitoring doesn’t make any sense if you don’t act upon your findings. It is your engagement that defines how the crisis will affect you. When handled well, crisis can even have a positive effect on your reputation. Crisis is a possibility to step up and show your company’s ability to truly interact and improve.

 

In order to do so, you must be quick. In one hour of silence you can get hundreds of angry people demanding answers, and misinformation spreads as long as you do not correct it. Offer answers to the questions you found through media monitoring, and offer them directly to the source, if possible. Engage in real interaction with the public ““ listen and discuss.

 

Secondly, you must be honest. If you have made a mistake, admit it and apologize sincerely. Let your humanity and personality show. After all, it is utterly human to make mistakes. Hiding behind the organizational structure will simply arouse suspicion.

 

Last, but not least, you must fix the original problem that caused the crisis, and communicate clearly, what you are doing to make things right.

 

Picture: Flickr

 

by Kiia Etelävuori

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