GUIDE • 4 mins

Your Survival Guide For When You Need Crisis Communication

Lauren Fialkow

Crisis communication is a specialized and sometimes complicated element of public relations. Navigating through a crisis seems especially fitting in today’s climate given that we are living in the midst of a global pandemic. So what better time to delve into how to operate if you find your company in a crisis without warning?

A crisis is an unpredictable situation that poses a significant threat to a particular company and/or its operations. Though there are different ways to define a crisis, it will definitely have negative consequences on your business. This is why it is crucial to know how to react when a crisis hits and to be prepared when it does. Follow these steps to help your business survive a crisis.

Plan ahead

The only way to successfully communicate during a crisis is to plan before the crisis actually hits. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a great example of how a crisis could sneak up with no warning. However, it is important to note that a pandemic is not the only example of a crisis, and it is critical to approach each crisis with an individualized plan. A crisis could be a product defect, employee misconduct, issues with unsatisfied customers, environmental issues, or any issue. Each of these situations must be handled differently with varying and organized plans. One of the worst reactions a company can have is panic, and the only way to ensure a steady method of communication is to maintain transparency and calmly evaluate the situation. 

Clear Communication

Crisis communication includes the word communication for a reason. Communication is essential to a well-run business, and it needs to be coherent and concise. This communication includes both an internal and an external team that can work in tandem in order to make sure that employees know where to direct questions and who is responsible for each task. The flow of communication within the company needs to be explicitly defined as well as the communication between the company and consumers. Also, the tone and manner of communication is just as important as the words being said. You must be decisive, genuine, and composed while distributing crisis communications. Keeping your consumers informed about the plans being made within the company is fundamental, and communication should remain constant from the beginning of a crisis to the end and beyond. 

Own a mistake

If a crisis occurs and your company is at fault, it is important to be accountable for the mistake. The last thing your company should do is to lie or try to cover up the error. Owning a mistake, apologizing, and moving forward demonstrates your company’s maturity and care for its consumers. People understand that nobody is perfect and missteps are bound to be made, but they also have respect for companies that are honest and straightforward. It is more likely that your company will be successful on the other end of a crisis if you communicate your plan and continue to be candid with your consumers. 

Mona Lisa painting wearing a medical mask.

Operate in a timely manner

Communicating promptly is critical so that your consumers aren’t left wondering what’s going on behind the scenes. The first message that is sent out should be well-written and clear in order to eliminate confusion. Everyone also needs to be on the same page; employees, customers, potential buyers, and stockholders should all receive information after an issue is identified. Acting promptly and handling the issue head-on is the first step towards handling a crisis. So, not only should your communication be timely, but your actions and operations should be working in conjunction with your messages. These procedures should be passed on to your internal team and the public in real-time.

Social Media

In today’s digital world, social media plays a huge role for essentially any company, big or small. Social media may or may not be the way you hear about your company’s crisis, but informing the public through social media is a strategy your company will likely use and trust. Chances are that the message you are sending to employees, stockholders, and other people in your internal team will not be the same message that is sent out to the public. So, you will need to alter the way in which you communicate depending on who you are speaking to and what social media platform you are using. When using social media, the response may be “retweeted” and “reposted” by employees and consumers alike, so using correct and appropriate wording in order to send a message that will resonate with the entire public has never been more vital. Make sure to show sympathy and appreciation for your consumers, modify your message for the specific audience, be personal, and create both trust and confidence in your company and its response to the matter. 

To communicate, or not to communicate

Although it is important to communicate in a timely fashion, there may be times when it is best to hold off on all communication until further notice. Sending out a message right away just to make sure that you are getting word out to the public could be interpreted differently by the public if not thought out properly. Be in control of the situation and know what to communicate, and then send a message out when a plan is set. If a message is rushed, it might not contain all of the essential information and be misunderstood. Get the message out as quickly as possible, but make sure the message is well-written. Also, make sure to be aware and knowledgeable of the world’s current climate before communicating about your specific crisis. Just because your crisis may seem to be the most important issue in the world, chances are it’s not from a global perspective. It has been shown, now more than ever, that posting about certain topics when there are major current catastrophes demonstrates a lack of caring for the public rather than the intended timely delivery of essential information about your company. 

As with most aspects of running a business, having a plan in place prior to when an issue occurs will ensure that you are able to take care of any potential crisis. Anticipation is key, and being prepared will allow you to handle any issue with ease and confidence. A crisis can strike without warning, and it is your job to assess the situation and combat it with the proper attitude and skills to lead your team through the unpredictable situation. As long as you have a planned out guide and team at hand, a crisis should be able to be averted in no time.