Effective post-crisis communications can play a role in how quickly and how successfully your company moves beyond a crisis to reflect a new goal or vision. Once you’re able to address the initial challenges presented by a crisis, organizations need to refocus and rebuild.
But the next steps leave many company executives scratching their heads or feeling overwhelmed. There numerous types of crises that range in severity and require different approaches. A crisis might include a growing negative online sentiment, product recall, data breach, employee misconduct or otherwise. Whatever the crisis is, your company needs to respond — and take steps forward — with professionalism and confidence.
For some decision-makers, the easiest and instinctive option might be to ignore the problem and wait for it to pass. But a crisis can have lasting repercussions and this approach can lead to more problems down the road; after a crisis, people will still judge how you respond. Instead of dismissing the crisis — or pretending it never happened — be proactive, acknowledge the situation and adapt messaging as needed. Consider the following approach:
Assess the Post-Crisis Situation
Take a step back and assess the post-crisis situation. Was your communications team getting accurate (and updated) information to share with the public? Were key spokespeople calm and collected under pressure? Was all messaging aligned with a singular and coordinated strategy to move forward? Were the right communications disseminated in a timely manner to stakeholders and the public? A pulse-check can reveal any cracks in your post-crisis foundation so you can quickly respond to future events as necessary, such as organizing spokesperson or company-wide media trainings.
Craft a Sturdy Messaging Framework
Long after a crisis breaks, people will continue to have questions, especially since a quick Google search can reveal past discretions. Your company needs to build an appropriate messaging framework that includes detailed talking points to guide further marketing, sales and PR efforts. This framework should highlight new company goals and/or corrective actions to rebuild trust and move forward. Whether your communications are delivered over the phone, e-mail, social media, in an RFP or any other marketing communications, avoid any confusion by ensuring your messaging is consistent.
Implement Learnings to Hone Response and Prevent Future Crisis
The last step in your post-crisis strategy should be reviewing any lessons learned during or after a crisis occurs. The communications team should sit down with executives to establish key takeaways. Your messaging framework should be flexible enough to adjust according to these takeaways, and include specific roles and responsibilities of different employees. What important lessons were learned during this process, and how do they affect existing protocols? How can these protocols be carried out more efficiently in future crisis situations? Use this reflection period to improve your crisis communication strategy and establish benchmarks — such as response time, media and consumer sentiment and stakeholder perception — to measure progress as your company moves forward.
A crisis is an opportunity to have an honest look at what communication strategies are working, which ones aren’t and how to best move forward. Every company should have an established crisis communication strategy that covers all bases prior to, during and well after a crisis. If you’re wondering how to prepare for an unexpected crisis, this blog post provides some good insights.
An experienced PR team can provide swift and appropriate guidance when a crisis hits, recognizing that effective crisis management requires a careful, case-by-case approach.