By Evan Nierman, founder and CEO of a crisis management company Red banyan, who offers crisis PR consulting for clients all over the world.
When disaster strikes, people often panic and forget about logic and common sense. They make rash, impulsive decisions with long-lasting negative consequences because they act hastily after not planning ahead.
Crisis responses should never involve guesswork. Every company, nonprofit, and government agency should prepare a plan of action in advance so that they know exactly what to do in an emergency.
Dealing effectively with a crisis is like putting out a fire: a slow reaction endangers lives and livelihoods as fires spread quickly and cause exponentially more damage in just a few minutes. Firefighters know what to do because they train extensively for emergencies and react quickly with a calculated plan of attack.
Crisis communication requires similar preparation. The faster the response, the easier it is to limit the damage and regain control of the narrative. But it requires being proactive and making plans before you need them.
Think of the 2020 Grammy Awards show, which could have been disastrous, with the untimely death of basketball star Kobe Bryant and serious allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment brought against the Academy of Recording Artists.
The Grammys themed Bryant’s tragic death by pending a pre-planned tribute to the late hip-hop artist Nipsey Hussle and quelling the other controversies by choosing the hugely talented singer / songwriter Alicia Keys to host the event. Keys smoothed out the triple threat with flying colors. A dynamic colored woman, she managed to unite the crowd despite the swirling allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the Academy.
Here are five reasons for you to create a crisis response plan before you actually need it:
Different crises require different answers.
Take the time to devise specific contingency plans for disruptive events such as hurricanes, disease outbreaks, workplace shootouts, and natural disasters. Each instance requires different actions.
In emergencies, emotions run high and the need for clear communication is more important than ever. Creating a contingency plan before a crisis actually occurs gives you the opportunity to reach employees regardless of whether they work remotely, externally, or not at all.
Technology is key to maintaining communications, and a mobile communications solution can be the easiest way to keep employees updated on their jobs and responsibilities, company openings and closings, changes in work hours, and other staff updates.
There are many rumors during a crisis.
A contingency plan should include communications that clarify facts and expose misinformation as rumors can spread and get out of hand. For example, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has spawned wild rumors ranging from helicopters spraying neighborhoods with disinfectant to fighting disease by drinking bleach to kill coronavirus germs.
Employers should never rely on the random opinions of those who are online, but instead seek facts from credible experts. Sharing these facts with your employees and preventing rumors from spreading is extremely important, and dealing with misinformation is essential to successfully navigating a crisis.
Proactive crisis management reduces the effects of a crisis.
Senior management must participate in crisis management exercises so that crisis response plans are tailored to the company’s industry and the specific roles of team members. They don’t know how someone reacts in a crisis until they are faced with one. As the saying goes: Practice makes perfect.
Better to find out during an exercise than in a real emergency. Did you choose the right people for your crisis response team? Do they respond well under pressure? Have you chosen a company spokesperson who will be happy to answer questions and share information?
Finding the right people for the right jobs should be done ahead of an emergency, as quickly selecting key personnel for the crisis is risky and can damage the company’s reputation over the long term.
A comprehensive social media policy can keep a crisis at bay.
Most disasters that get out of hand do so online. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, companies must continuously monitor their social media channels, communicate about them and be ready to react quickly to scandals and other PR crises.
A brewing online Tiff can break out into a full-blown crisis in no time. A social media policy that takes feedback and comments into account is necessary to quell rumors, share facts, and fight falsehoods.
A crisis management plan will address and outline how the social media accounts will be monitored so that nothing slips through the grid.
Being prepared can save money, time, and reputation.
The consequences of incorrectly dealing with a disaster are real. Investing a modest amount into devising a crisis public relations plan is a much more cost-effective decision than having to hire a crisis public relations agency forced to start over during the controversy.
It is increasingly necessary for managers and entrepreneurs to take crisis management seriously and to plan ahead. Developing a crisis PR plan before you need one makes sure that in the event of a disaster you have a well-prepared team that is ready to implement a solid and detailed plan.