One of the most important (and one of the most challenging) aspects of crisis or incident management is communication, both internally to your own people, and externally to your various stakeholders or the media. Get this element right and you can save yourself an awful lot of hassle. Get it wrong and your problems will almost certainly increase.
As with incident management and business continuity management in general, getting it right means planning in advance. Just a few of the things that can be thought through as part of this planning process include :
- Identifying your various audiences (e.g. employees, customers/clients, business partners, suppliers, investors, shareholders, the local community, the media, and anyone else you believe to be important to your organisation) and their likely concerns;
- Identifying the most effective communications mechanisms and tools for each key audience;
- Ensuring alternative means of communication – don’t rely on any one method, such as mobile ‘phones or e-mail, but give yourself a range of options;
- Identifying the crisis media manager and support team;
- Identifying spokespeople and training them, specifically in crisis communication (which is very different to the more usual ‘good news’ PR-related communication);
- Briefing other employees (particularly ‘front of house’ and customer-facing staff);
- Agreeing approval processes for messages or statements;
- Planning to ensure a consistent message, albeit the actual wording might differ for your various audiences;
- Keeping stakeholder contact details, media contact lists, etc up to date;
- Ensuring 24-hour access to these contact details and to PR support (whether internal or external).
To use an old army adage, “proper planning and preparation prevents p… poor performance” (fill in the blanks yourself if you feel so inclined!). Crisis communication is an area where this is certainly true. So plan properly and make sure your performance is up to scratch when you need it to be.
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