…You need a crisis communications plan
If you own your business, you probably have all kinds of insurance. You’ve protected your building, your equipment and depending on your field, you might have errors and omissions, liability or other insurances as well.
But 95% of you are missing one of the most vital insurances of all. This safety net could literally prevent the ruin of your organization. It’s a crisis communications plan.
Just like you can’t anticipate a fire or theft, you can’t possibly know when you’re going to face an accident, C-level misconduct, or misuse of your product that results in a death, tragedy or other news garnering disaster.
There are five must do’s for effective crisis communication planning. Be sure, as you draft your plan, to include all five aspects.
Be prepared: In today’s 24/7 world with continuous news channels, blogs, Twitter and other on demand media sources – you can’t afford not to be ready long before disaster strikes. Within minutes of the 2010 accidental death of the SeaWorld trainer – the news was already being shared on Twitter and YouTube videos were being uploaded. You do not have time to huddle up once the crisis has hit.
Listen and monitor: One of the best ways to prevent a wide scale communications crisis is to nip it in the bud. By identifying potential problems before or immediately after they surface, often you can mitigate a great deal of the damage. Create strategic listening posts that allow you to monitor what is being said about your company, your leadership, your products and your industry. This shouldn’t just be about monitoring social media. With so much of mainstream media producing content for the web – you need to keep a watchful eye on them as well.
Be human and be humane: It’s easy to get defensive and hide behind “no comment” or your lawyers. But when tragic strikes – your audiences (employees, community, customers, etc.) want to see and hear from you. They don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to genuinely care about what happened and how it impacts them. They want to hear from a real person who is being honest and forthright with them.
Over communicate: This is good advice in almost any situation but it’s critical at a time of crisis. You need to be very present, you need to offer regular updates and you need to repeat the same information in a wide variety of formats, media and potentially, time zones. Even if you don’t have anything new to report – don’t be dormant for too long. It makes people worry and wonder.
Create community: One of the best things you can do is to create a community of supporters and fans. That way, when you’re under fire, you’ll have a legion of people who will stand with you and help you fight off the attack. With the shift to “everyone can produce content” this becomes a vital part of your plan. You want lots of people singing your praises if/when you hit a bump in the road.
We’re going to dig into each of these five over the next couple weeks. I’m really hoping that you tune in and take some action.
Unfortunately, most of you will disregard this advice and not put a crisis communications plan in place. And even more tragic – several of you, down the road, will sorely wish that you had.