Though it seems unlikely, it’s inevitable that your company will experience an unexpected event that can negatively impact your brand image, reputation, or even business model. Whether it’s an internal misstep or an external crisis, your communications team needs to act quickly and professionally to manage the situation. Miscommunications can get out of hand in a hurry, so it’s good to have a plan in place for both internal and external communications for times of crisis.
Determining What a Crisis Is
A crisis in business is any unexpected event that may negatively affect a business’s strategy, objectives, reputation, or threaten the existence of that company. Crises tend to spread fast. The quicker you can get in front of it and communicate with your customers, clients, and employees, the faster your company can get a handle on the problem and reconcile any damages.
Failing to confront and take ownership of a crisis can severely damage your company’s reputation, employee’s livelihoods, and inevitably, your bottom line. If not handled right away, it can permanently damage your business or even cause its demise.
Keeping secrets from your employees is no way to handle a crisis internally. Failing to address your employees directly at the onset of a problem is a good way to lose trust, damage your reputation, and contribute to the spread of misinformation. Most people think getting information to the media is at the top of the list, however, the media doesn’t run the day-to-day aspects of your business. This is why it’s important to properly communicate to your employees what the state of the company is. Highlight the steps upper management is taking and how employees should carry on during this time.
After informing your employees, your next step is to inform investors or anyone with a board position. Your investors and board of directors have contributed a considerable amount of resources to your company. Informing them when a crisis begins not only ensures that they have the facts, but it can also strengthen the level of trust between you and open up the conversation on how to appropriately resolve the problem.
Letting the public know about how your company is dealing with a crisis can be tricky. The quicker you can get accurate information out to the public, the better. You’ll clearly state what the crisis is and what your company is going to do about it through your external messaging.
When beginning your public communication strategy, you’ll want to consider what medium your audiences are using. Consider social media sites, emails, SMS messages, or online news outlets. It’s also a wise decision to keep your website up to date on the crisis and steps your company is taking.
Another great step to take, depending on the size of your company, is to write a press release. Getting a well-worded press release that explains your situation, and how you plan to address it, will ultimately help portray your company in a more positive light.
In the past, certain companies have chosen to try and cover up their mistakes — this almost always comes back to haunt them. In 1989 Exxon tried to brush off their oil spill in Alaska and attempted to shift blame to the captain of the oil tanker. This lack of ownership led to a worldwide distrust in Exxon and tarnished their reputation for years to come.
Adjusting Communication during the COVID-19 Outbreak
With companies shutting down, going remote, or even maintaining regular business hours, it is important to communicate this with your audiences. Leveling with your customers, clients, and partners on what your company is doing during this time of uncertainty should be a top priority. In your messaging, you’ll want to address how your company is operating, how you will continue to support your customers or clients, and what your internal and external audiences can expect from you. Circumstances are changing rapidly, and it’s important to keep your audience updated every step of the way.
Regardless of what crisis your company is facing, it’s always better to face it head-on than to try to sweep it under the rug. By being upfront and honest with your internal and external audiences, you can maintain control of the messaging, information, and reaction to this untimely event. Whether or not you think it could happen to your company, it is always wise to be prepared for anything that might jeopardize your business.
-Written By Jonah Ericksen