Around-the-Clock Crisis Communications
Internal and external crises can strike any organization. These conflicts arise quickly and demand swift response in the age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Organizations interacting with the public must be prepared to respond to crises and manage public perception.
Big Sky Public Relations is hired by multiple organizations across Montana and Washington to prepare for a crisis before it hits. When communication emergencies do arise, BSPR responds in a timely, holistic, and authentic manner to preserve and improve our clients’ reputations. Our team dedicates their full attention and expertise to helping clients fully recover from a conflict.
BSPR sees crisis communications as an ongoing service for its clients, beyond the time bounds of a single crisis.
Within our crisis communications services, vulnerability audits, crisis plan development, and media training are key components of our crisis preparation plans for clients. Preparation provides a “road map” to shorten the time between the crisis and the response.
Knowing your crisis team
● Should be established before a crisis occurs
● Have all contact info for crisis communication team members
● Organization employees attend regular media training
Formally planning for a crisis
● Definition of “crisis” may vary by organization
● Know your organization’s weak spots and past conflicts
● Prepare examples that represent the company’s tone
Live messaging, fielding media inquiries, and media tracking are components of our crisis response plans for clients. Each crisis will require messaging specifically tailored to the dilemma and organization’s tone and values. However, there are five common elements that ensure the success of a crisis response.
Timely response to crises strongly determines the degree of reputation recovery.
If an organization can effectively define the nature of the crisis, its motives, and its actions within the first 45 minutes of an issue becoming public, relatively few stakeholders will have heard of the issue from others. As a result, the issue will likely settle down with minimal harm to trust and reputation. Even if the crisis cools down, the communications team should continue to monitor the online conversation around the issue and new concerns that may develop after the organization’s statement is released.
If it takes longer than the first day to define the crisis, then a company and its leaders will risk negative coverage in newspapers, TV broadcasts, and social media reactions for an extended period of time. If it’s alive for this long, there is room for significant damage, sometimes irreparable to the organization’s reputation and long-term relationships with stakeholders and the surrounding community.
An organization’s team of public relations professionals will determine a candid description of what happened, what is happening, or what might happen. Public relations professionals can help organizations maintain communications clarity in describing the actual problem at hand to avoid confusion.
If there are audiences impacted by the crisis, an organization’s message needs to express genuine empathy. The single biggest harm to an organization's reputation and operations is when the public feels the organization or leader does not care.
An expression of empathy should directly address the audience’s central experience of harm rather than symptoms or unrelated issues. A public relations team can help organizations identify the core concerns of stakeholders with thorough research and monitoring audience communications around the crisis. What it takes to show that an organization cares may vary across time, which requires the crisis communications team to be responsive to the evolving emotions of the situation.
Within the crisis response, the organization’s statement should re-declare its values and priorities. Many organizations hold core values that are likely to be relevant to the situation. For example, an organization can restate how their value of community will help them address the problem at hand. Or, an organization can reiterate how safety is an important part of their work and will be reflected in their response. Regardless of how it is expressed, audiences should be reminded of the priorities of the organization and how they are being upheld after a crisis.
5. Commitment to Next Steps
The crisis is happening and no one can un-ring that bell. But we can address the wound and reduce the chance of a worse outcome.
To regain public trust, organizations must take responsibility for the next steps in addressing the problem at hand. By taking action and building controlled expectations around those actions, organizations can be more resilient as the crisis continues and future stakeholders evaluate the organization’s past. It’s critical for organizations to follow up on their next steps and keep the media and stakeholders in the loop as the long-term response unfolds.
In BSPR’s history, we have handled a wide range of crises within very different client industries. As public relations professionals, we partner with clients by sharing our best tools and representatives to proactively plan for crises and confidently handle real-time problems. If you have questions or want to explore our crisis communications services, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (406) 261-7665 to speak with our Big Sky Public Relations