When Brand Reputation is on The Line: Five Tips for Crisis Communications
Any business needs to be prepared for crisis communications. From product failures to how an organization handles a natural disaster—emergencies can have a severe impact on a business’s reputation and performance. After reports that the Galaxy Note 7, for example, was catching fire, Samsung experienced a 96% drop in operating profits—in part thanks to ongoing negative press. Let’s face it – no business runs completely smoothly or is completely immune from crises. And it is for this reason that businesses must be prepared for how they communicate during a crisis. In today’s world of social and oversharing, one misstep can be fatal.
Here are five tips to help successfully prepare for crisis communications – especially when your reputation and bottom line are at risk.
1. Have a crisis communications plan in place.
This may seem like an obvious tip but creating a strong plan for crisis communications can be a mammoth task. And frankly, many forget to plan past business continuity. It is critical that you think ahead. What are the potential crises that could hit your businesses? How would they impact operations, but also how could they impact your brand and the companies’ bottom line? These types of communications, both internal and external, could include anything from:
- · how a man-made or nature-made emergency is handled
- · the behavior of a top executive
- · the release of a new product
- · a rumor propagated by an ex-employee or competitor
- · a failure at a customer site involving product or services
- · the restructuring of the company
all of which could easily spin into their own story without proper, confidential handling and communication. All you have to do is think of the issues that United has had this year, Florida Power and Light during Irma and HP with its restructure.
Make sure you have a trusted public relations team or corporate communications role that can release communications quickly in the event of a crisis. Employees should have assigned, clear roles in the event of a crisis—including establishing who will be spokespersons. And there should be distinct procedures in plan for communicating with all stakeholders – including staff and customers. Without a well thought out crisis communication plan, a crisis can lead to a break down in operational response, negative responses from stakeholders, delay in crisis resolution, and harm to a company’s reputation and stock value.
2. Communicate with your employees.
If a crisis is unfolding, make sure your employees are up-to-date on the information. No one should leave meetings feeling confused. Make sure each person knows their role and feels prepared. At the same time, do not inundate employees with too much information – in some situations less is more. Every message does not need to be sent to every employee. Keep the communications relevant to each person based on their role. However, also keep employees up-to-date and morale high—in such cases it is helpful to have a single point of contact so that there is a single source of truth —such as broadcasts through a secure messaging platform. This keeps employees in the loop with correct information, while minimizing the impact on strategic teams that are focused on the crisis at hand.
3. Respond quickly.
When it comes to crisis communications, the last thing you want to do is hem and haw over a response while you try to determine what happened. The media will cover the story—whether you’re releasing a public statement or not. And if you don’t respond within the first few hours people tend to assume that either the company is at fault or that they’re not in charge of their messaging. It is in your organization’s benefit to act quickly—and having a well-thought out crisis communication plan, with a secure means in which to collaborate candidly on your response, will allow you to respond rapidly. Construct your narrative about the event or crisis by securely discussing the event with trusted resources – confident that discussions cannot be shared or forwarded to unintended recipients, formulate the message based on this one source of truth and deliver the story to stay in front of the media versus chasing a story created by or hyped by the media.
4. Have a strong relationship with your customers.
It’s important to have a strong relationship with your customers—before a crisis occurs. Providing them with valuable information, listening to their concerns and needs and acknowledging their support goes a long way in terms of building a strong sense of community with your customers. During a crisis think about your customers and the questions they may have and craft your message to address those concerns. When it come to a crisis, supportive customers can be a tremendous help—it is a huge asset to have customers come to your assistance. Building a strong customer community can go a long way in maintaining your company’s reputation during a crisis.
5. Be internet savvy.
46% of journalists use twitter as a source. The last thing you want is for a crisis to hit and find yourself without a twitter handle—all while people are tweeting about you. Make sure your company is internet savvy and set up on social media—from Twitter, to Facebook, to LinkedIn. Monitor social media and respond appropriately. Also monitor those accounts of your executives as well. When it comes to crisis communications, keeping a close eye on social media is key to controlling the narrative of your company and the narrative that is being created about any one event. It only takes one comment, one wrong interpretation, one stray comment in anger by an executive to cause a crisis. Never underestimate the power of social media and the potential impact to your reputation and bottom line.
When your reputation is on the line, crisis communications requires having a strong communications plan; how you plan to communicate with your employees, stakeholders, and customers can be critical to your success. With a growing need for immediate response in order to prevent media or competitive hype, the desire to leverage text for these vital communications is common. However, in order to keep communications secure, confidential, candid and compliant (if required) it is important for organizations to consider enterprise grade secure messaging platforms such as Vaporstream when brand reputation and stock price are at risk.
To learn more about how the Vaporstream Secure Messaging Platform can assist with your crisis communications strategy visit us at vaporstream.com.
Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle