By: Jonathan Basler
The way a company handles or manages a crisis can make or break its image for years to come. An organizational crisis of any kind can have high influence in the system of the company and its survival.
Why specifically is crisis management so important? A poorly handled crisis has the potential to create uncertainty amongst investors and sponsorships that impact the financial and social being of a business. Corporate social responsibility can be impacted due to loss of jobs made apparent in decline of sales. On the contrary, a well‐managed crisis can positively influence investors, sponsorships, increase sales and lead to job growth. In order to have a well-managed crisis, communication teams must follow a set of guidelines in order to be successful. Here are a few guidelines and examples of successful crisis management.
Crisis Variables- Does your organization ave contingency plans? In order for a crisis communication team to be successful, all variables in what can potentially happen must be examined. Understanding weakness of an organization is essential, and can be done by examining the external threats and finding the likelihood of a crisis.
A great example of an organization anticipating threats can be found throughout the wake of Lance Armstrong admitting use of performance-enhancing drugs. LIVESTRONG, a non-profit cancer society previously run by Lance Armstrong, knew there had been rumors and credible sources against Armstrong. LIVESTRONG was able to react quickly and remove Armstrong from the company. A campaign was in place rapidly due to the anticipation of the surrounding variables around LIVESTRONG.
Identify a Spokesperson- One quote that will live in infamy throughout crisis communication is the “I want my life back” quote by former CEO of British Petroleum (BP), Anthony “Tony” Hayward. This was said during a BP oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. This example is perfect in identifying the need for a key spokesperson, because if you do not, not only will you have to deal with the crisis but additional crises based on what people within the organization say. Finding a reputable spokesperson who is not going to create hate for the organization is crucial to a crisis communication team. Ideally, that person would fit all of the categories listed below.
- Keep emotions under control
- Speak persuasively and exudes confidence
- Think clear under intense pressure
- Command a high level of respect
- Talk simple and avoid using jargon
- Understand the needs of the media and are media trained
Communication Channels– In order to have an effective communication plan, practitioners need to be able to reach the target audiences. Social media, print media, broadcast media and the blogosphere are used as outlets for information during a crisis. When the message is sent through the right communication channel(s), it also sends a message about the organizations timely crisis communication plan.
The key to a successful crisis communication plan is pre-planning. The more an organization prepares for what can go wrong within their organization the more successful they will be in coming out of the crisis with the perception of a reputable and socially responsible organization that truly cares about the communities where they are located.