“It can take 20 years to build a reputation, and only five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffet
In today’s world, crises can be very unpredictable, fast moving and paralyzing to an organization. If you share too little, you may raise suspicion. If you share too much, you may dig yourself into a deeper hole, creating more liability for your brand or company.
Managing and navigating a crisis can be tremendously difficult and can significantly impact your organization in both the short term and long term. That’s why Baker PR strongly urges our clients – and works closely with many of them – to develop a crisis communications plan before an actual crisis arises. Having such a plan in place in advance of a crisis can be the difference between success and failure.
Baker PR believes every crisis communications plan needs to be tailored to the individual client, but here are a few guiding principles we employ:
• What you choose to share is critical and must always be the truth.
• While it is important to respond to a crisis as quickly as possible, make sure you first know what you want to say (your message) and who will be your spokesperson (your messenger).
• Before going public, it is crucial to first inform your employees and other internal key stakeholders. You never want employees, board members, volunteers, key clients and customers to find out about a crisis from the media — and don’t wait for disaster to strike before figuring out how to communicate to this internal audience.
• Be sure to get the facts right and ensure your internal audience you will continue to keep them informed and updated.
• Once your internal audience has been alerted, you need to pivot immediately to external communications. You may not have all the details, but a swift and prompt announcement to the media will minimize the speculation or rumor and let your audience know that you are in control. Be okay with the response “We are aware of the situation and are gathering more details. We will provide an update soon.” Providing safe channels, open feedback and addressing all concerns will help regain trust and loyalty in the eyes of the public.
• Using video to show the face behind the message can play a huge role in communicating to your shareholders, partners and the public. Not only does video allow real time information, it demonstrates leadership, offers reassurance, and allows control over the messaging you’re trying to convey. Because of this, it is helpful for your spokesperson(s) to be identified in advance and provided video and media training.
• Although websites and social media are where most people will turn for information, company marketing teams, IT and web designers likely won’t have time to quickly formulate a site in the midst of a crisis. Developing a dark site (not to be confused with the “dark web”) is one of the most useful tools in any emergency communications. Dark sites are pre-made and non-visible that can go live in a crisis to communicate your message, offer updates, and provide contact information so that your customers come directly to you for the answers to their questions.
• Having a pre-planned digital strategy and adjusting what your presence looks like across social platforms and your website is very important. Pause irrelevant messaging and promotion for several days. Being upfront, telling the truth and taking responsibility should be held to the utmost importance.
At Baker PR, we understand and have seen first-hand the crucial importance of having a crisis communications plan in place. Being able to communicate in the right way during and after a crisis can determine the outcome of the situation and its impact on your brand, business or company.
Being prepared, proactive, calm and swift cannot only minimize damage, but if done correctly, can actually build trust and strengthen your brand. We urge you to connect with our team to better prepare for the unforeseen future.