If you’re faced with a communications crisis, chances are you need a guide on how to manage crisis comms to your advantage. Luckily, we’ve prepared 4 Steps to Managing Crisis Communications to your advantage.
At 9pm on a Saturday night, I was faced with a successful, well-known business owner in tears. The week before the biggest professional event of her life a major issue had cropped up which risked completely derailing the event. We immediately sat down to devise a crisis communications strategy to turn this tragedy around to her benefit.
Within the week, we had generated positive coverage in the Guardian, the BBC, the Telegraph, and more. This coverage led to an interview on BBC radio and her event being featured in the Sunday Times as a “top pick.” Organic search increased astronomically, and almost all of it came from positive stories showing how she was fighting back.
If you follow this guide and work with professionals, you, too, can turn disaster into triumph.
The best crisis comms plan is one that nobody ever learns about, so we’re going to keep this one confidential and focus on how we achieved the results.
Let’s jump into the 4 steps to ensure successful crisis comms. At the end, there’s an image you can save and use as a checklist so you’re never caught unaware by a communications crisis.
Step 1: Prepare your battleground
- Write down the names of your top five individual stakeholders with sway in the media.
- Agree to who are your top five corporate stakeholders.
- Determine how this crisis affects each of your stakeholders.
- Map out their support level and the best way to sway them to your side.
- Note any legal implications and the items you absolutely cannot do, say, or imply.
- Agree to, and immediately assign, a team to work on your short-term, immediate fix.
- Make sure everybody at the table agrees to these points.
Step 2: Figure out your comms goals
If you run your crisis communications plan right, you can turn a disaster into a good news story.
- Write down two positive attributes you want people to associate with your brand. For example, you can say you want to be known for transparency and for having a strong corporate social responsibility program. Or perhaps you’d like to be known for being young and hip.
- Determine the places where your prospects and customers get their trusted news.
- Now find a way to develop a long-term fix that supports your brand ideals. That message is the story you’ll be taking to your customers’ trusted press outlets.
Step 3: Start with heart
Take a moment to look at the issue from the point of view of the people who are impacted by this crisis. Write down the top three impacts on their life.
There are two types of crises: ones you are in no way responsible for, and ones where you share the blame.
When you aren’t responsible for a crisis, it may just be the opportunity for comms gold. Get in touch with us, and we’ll help you turn the crisis into a success.
On the other hand, if you are partially to blame, you’ll need to take a very considered approach. Let’s take the example of a data breach. Your clients will want to know what information was exposed, how you are safeguarding their accounts, and what you’re doing to ease the pain and ensure this never happens again.
A simple apology is not enough.
If possible, find a common enemy or cause and encourage your clients to rally with you. Demonstrate that you are investing to make sure this never happens again.
We apologize best when we follow the method of: Explaining, Resolving, Apologizing, and Going on the Offensive. Careful when going on the offensive, though, as all this must be done while maintaining complete sincerity and integrity.
See this example below:
Anatomy of an Apology Mail
EXPLANATION: This week we discovered that the email address and date of birth of clients making a booking on our system were stolen as part of an international hacking attack. Passport, password, and credit card information were not compromised as part of this attack.
RESOLUTION: Your account has been secured and our website is working normally.
APOLOGY: We are deeply sorry for the worry and concern that this breach has caused you.
OFFENSIVE: We also recognize that these sorts of attacks are on the rise, so we are launching an eCommerce CyberSecurity program in partnership with law enforcement and the Global CyberSecurity Collective. Your privacy matters to us, and we are increasing the resources to fight back against these threats and asking others in our community to do the same.
SINCERITY: Please accept our sincere apologies. We value your privacy and your trust. When you log onto your profile, you will see an outline of the impacts on your account, as well as free resources to help you through this experience.
Step 4: Map your plays & launch
Map out exactly what message you wish to convey, when, how, and by whom. Now map out how you can ensure your message prevails while covering your rear by preparing secondary messages in case the first ones aren’t well-received.