The 10 Rules of Crisis Communications

What is a Crisis?

“A crisis is defined as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, and an industry. A crisis can create three related threats: public safety, financial loss, and reputation loss.”
W. Timothy Coombs, Ph.D

Every organisation is vulnerable to a crisis, and any organisation that thinks it isn’t is living on another planet. Organisations cannot ‘manage’ or ‘prevent’ what is said about them, the internet and social media has meant that people are empowered to their own voice in a place where anyone can see it. This could result in something being said about your organisation that you do not like, and sometimes it can result in reputational damage.

Should this ever happen to you, I have set out 10 Rules of Crisis Communications for you to think about and feel a bit more prepared:

1. Listen. There are no 9-5 or weekends anymore. Your customers and clients won’t wait.

2. Don’t be defensive, don’t over react. People are more likely to trust reviews with a few negative comments than all positive comments. They are also more likely to steer clear of an organisation who comes across as angry and argumentative if they receive any negative comments or reviews.

3. Do not lie. Be open, honest and authentic in your communications and people will respect you for it.

4. Be yourself. People buy people. Show them your human side and they will be much easier on you.
5. Keep up to date with all of the latest channels there are. A simple phone call or email doesn’t suffice for everyone anymore.

6. Relationship Building is one of the most important aspects pre any crisis. If you have brand influencers and advocates they will be your saviours in a time of reputational crises.

7. Build a Team. Having a team around you when planning, preparing and during any crisis will enable you to act fast, efficiently and effectively. Ensure your team are prepared and they know their role.

8. Apologise. You may not be in the wrong. But remember the age-old saying ‘the customer is always right’. Sometimes this is the best and only way to get someone back on side. Say you’re sorry and tell them what you will do to rectify the wrong.

9. Practice makes perfect and this rings very true with crisis communications. Think up scenarios that might happen to your organisation and role-play exactly what you would do with your team.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend. Sometimes asking others who are outside of the situation can provide an alternate viewpoint on a situation. Should you not be entirely sure as to how to react to a possible crisis situation, then ask someone who is no emotionally involved. They might also provide you with a way to see it from the other side.


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