What is Crisis Communication in Public Relations?
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Now unfortunately for us, we cannot predict or pre-empt a crisis. It is fair to say that life would be much easier if we could, but alas, that is not the way of the world. Crises normally strike out of the blue, so how do we protect ourselves against the unknown? Well, the answer is simple: crisis communication (CC). If you have a CC plan in place, then you’ll be likely to avoid, resurrect, or rebuild your company following a catastrophe. 👍🏼
What is Crisis Communication? 🆘
CC is a strand of Public Relations that deals with protecting companies, organisations, and individuals facing a plethora of crises. CC experts provide the necessary technologies, systems, and protocols to organisations which will allow them to communicate and recover effectively in an emergency. Their aim is to minimise any damage to their reputation, public image, finances, employees, and assets.
Your CC experts will ensure that the relevant personnel are on hand during an emergency, whether your company is struck by crime👮♀️, fire🔥, terrorism💣, severe weather conditions🌪, online trolls🧑💻...the list goes on.
What’s the Main Goal? 🌟
The main goal of those working in crisis communication is to conduct 'seamless communication' during a crisis. Ultimately, crisis management is put in place to protect a company and its stakeholders against threat, yet the primary concern has to be public safety. It is essential that this comes first and that the organisation's reputation and financial security comes after public safety is remedied.
Who Needs It? 🧐
Crisis communication is as essential to a company as cheese is to crackers.🧀 You can no longer stick your head in the sand like an ostrich and wait for the situation to blow over. Whatever the size of your business, no matter your industry, it is necessary to have a crisis communication plan in place. According to the Business Continuity Institute, 84% of organisations have an emergency communication plan, with 55% using 3 or more emergency communication processes. Nonetheless, research shows that the majority of organisations do not do enough to prepare themselves for a crisis; have a read of this ‘a crisis of confidence’ article by Deloitte for the gossip on which companies have a clear view of crisis and which ones are ready to handle it.
Also, check out this ‘ideal approach to crisis communication’ guide on Rock Dove Solutions.
So, What’s the Crisis Communication Plan? 📃
A crisis communication plan is a set of guidelines made by the PR experts to prepare an organisation for an emergency or unexpected crisis.
They will guide you through:
• How to deal with the crisis when it first emerges.
• How to communicate with the stakeholders, public, partners, customers, employees, and media.
• How to ensure that the issue will not occur again.
The approach to crisis communication will differ from company to company, however there are several generic CC strategies that can be related to each organisation.
1. The Proactive Damage Control
Prevention involves seeking to reduce the known threats which could lead to a crisis. It is simple things such as installing anti-virus software on your computers to prevent hacking or a malware attack. One of the essential elements to prevention is training. Your crisis communication team will be trained how to respond in an emergency, but it is equally necessary to ensure that all your staff are aware of how to react in a crisis. Compose some short training videos on security protocols, or even ask your CC team to do a presentation.
It is also important to remember that sometimes companies must endure planned crises of their own, such as having to lay off staff. As Johnathan Bernstein states ‘failure of organisations to anticipate and prevent crisis is a rampant crisis of its own’, have a read of his advice here. 💯
2. The Spokesperson Response
When a company makes a mistake, is it important to make a public apology. It’s personable and makes your organisation seem more human. It’s often better to elect one person for the job, ideally your CEO and not a group of intimidating lawyers. The CC team will be able to assist the spokesperson’s statements. For tips on how to be a successful spokesperson, have a read of The Institute of PR’s Crisis Management and Communications. ✅
3. The Social Media Response
Social media definitely has its perks as well as its damages. It is a brilliant marketing tool which allows companies to reach diverse and expansive audiences across the globe. It can also be used to gather feedback from customers. This may seem daunting, however it is a brilliant tool to prevent a crisis as you can analyse the negative feedback and use it to learn and improve other customer’s experiences. It is necessary to have a CC social media plan in place in order to protect your online reputation and ensure that any negative perceptions of your brand are resolved. 🕺
Have a read of these GuidedPR tips on how to use social media effectively with PR.
Some last CC tips: 🕺
• If you’re looking for a simple crisis communication template, then look no further. Here’s one you can download on HubSpot.
• Make your plan mobile-friendly. Digitalising your crisis plan is essential as it not only provides a platform for your CC team, but also provides easy access for the stakeholders and employees when crisis strikes. Check out this Digital crisis management platform.
• Make sure your CC plan is conducted in 'real time'. There is no guarantee of where your employees and colleagues will be during a crisis. It's therefore necessary to have 'real time' alerts. By using a platform, you can send updates and notifications to employees and stakeholders in an emergency.
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About the Author:
Evie is a published writer, living and working in London. She’s a PR Assistant and Copywriter at GuidedPR. She holds a BA Hons in History from Royal Holloway and has accordingly worked within the culture sector and legal industry. You’ll usually find her scribbling down words in a coffee shop with a flat white in hand.
Find Evie on LinkedIn.