We live in a day and age when things that once wouldn’t have hit the headlines now do - and at a faster rate than ever before.
Issues occur all the time; whether or not they turn into a crisis is often down to how well the organisation communicates about the issue in the first instance.
Why do we need to develop a crisis communication plan right now?
It’s because one never knows when a crisis is going to hit, so being prepared will help the organisation respond much faster.
An organisation that communicates effectively in a time of crisis will have a far greater chance of emerging with its reputation – and client base - intact. This is one of many reasons why it makes good business sense to hope for the best but to plan and practice for the worst.
We don’t live in a perfect world and people realise that ‘stuff happens’. For example, technology companies experience hardware and software failures from time to time - it’s the nature of their business. But when things do go wrong, people want reassurance that the company is doing everything it can to fix the problem. They also want to know how soon it’s going to be fixed.
This seems like simple stuff but it’s surprising how many organisations fail to communicate effectively when trouble is brewing. Generally it’s because either they haven’t planned for it or they haven’t practiced regularly enough. Although it’s difficult, if not impossible, to plan for every eventuality, the necessary crisis communication skills easily translate from one situation to another. The more skilled that an organisation is at handling an issue, the better their chances of minimising the fallout and resulting long term damage.
No organisation is immune from the potential for a crisis – including schools. This was demonstrated when Napier High School student Anela Pritchard’s speech hit the headlines. The school’s reaction to Anela’s speech drew criticism, including this NZ Herald opinion piece. It could have been such a different story for the school had it been prepared for the unpredictability of teenagers – and the multiplier effect of teenagers living in the digital age. Unfortunately for the school, the story grew legs and was in the headlines for days.
Having a crisis communication plan is a good place to start but practicing the plan and keeping it up-to-date is even better. Dusting off the plan only to find the key people named on the crisis team no longer work there won’t help in the heat of the moment. Nor will having out-of-practice people fielding media calls. Practice makes perfect and it’s with practice that the business will be more prepared to counter an unpredictable event.
It’s always heartening when clients schedule their annual crisis simulation with us. We plan out a series of events and put the plan to the test. Many organisations invest significantly in their brands and reputations so it’s common sense to plan and practice for threats. This will help to ensure that even the trickiest issue can be turned into an opportunity.
Be honest when assessing how well your company would fare in a crisis situation and if necessary call in crisis communication plan experts to help.