Be Prepared. That’s what Mrs B my Girl Guide leader drummed in to me and it’s something that carries through to work today. OK, I don’t always carry with me 10p for the phone [it’s 60p to make a call from a public phone box these days!], a piece of string, pencil and paper, and the number for the local doctor (Wormley 2218 in case you were wondering) however one piece of work we do focus a lot of time on is getting clients in to a position where they are well prepared, and practiced, from a crisis point of view. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: this is often the best and most thorough piece of work that, hopefully, never sees the light of day.
Crises can appear in so many ways and thanks to social media, gone are the days of a warning call from the media requesting comment within one hour. Crises can be trending on twitter within minutes, as experienced by Wahaca’s comms team at the weekend by over how pay and tips are distributed amongst their team members, or taken away, in their restaurants.
If you haven’t already got a crisis comms plan in place, the first job is to sit down with your wider team and answer the following questions as these will form the basis of your plan:
1. What are the crises that could happen and that are our responsibility to lead on? From the minor to the major. Think outside of the box, look at what has happened previously, what challenges competitors have and how you would respond, both from a comms and also practical POV.
2. What are the crises that we may have a voice in? Not all crises are ‘ours’ – some might be someone else’s, but impact us, or people might expect us to have a voice.
3. What are our business and people values and policies? This was particularly pertinent in Wahaca’s case. If these had been clear in the first instance, the negative comms could have intercepted much earlier.
4. Who leads in the event of a crisis? Someone needs to take ownership and be aware of their role and responsibilities. Often people aren’t aware of exactly what they have to do.
5. Extended team roles and responsibilities. Who else needs to be involved and what should they be doing. If they don’t have a role, let them know that as well. Often people want to be involved, which is well intentioned but can just cause confusion. Ensure second-in-commands are appointed.
6. What’s the flow of information. Who plays an active role, who needs to be informed and who elevates it up the chain of command. By working through this detail, a tight plan with real-case scenarios can be practiced to ensure it works.
7. Who needs training? Ensure everyone is comfortable with delivering their role.
8. Who are the people we need to be communicating with in the event of a crisis – informed experts, general public, media, internal etc. By identifying these audiences, it gives clear direction on tone of voice, messaging and platform. Different audiences may require different content.
9. Who has log-ins for the social media. Something often missed – but if the lead is away, who can access, write copy and knows how to post on the various channels you own?
10. Use the plan. Once you have created your plan, ensure you have it to hand (even printed off), with you and accessible at all times. And don’t forget to always refer back to it, particularly when under pressure – it’s easy to think you can skip processes to speed things along, but they were put in there for a reason.
Crisis communications is a tough and uncomfortable business with elements often outside of your control and crises arise for the very reason that they are difficult to predict. It’s a constant learning process, but with all this information pre-prepared and thought through, the creation of the crisis communications plan should run far more smoothly.
Do you feel well-prepared in the event of a crisis? Contact Emily Caroe to discuss further.
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