5 Crisis Communication Tips for Weathering a Global Crisis Well
Crises hit companies all the time. Sometimes those crises are of the company’s own making.
A key executive commits a crime.
A product or service fails, causing harm to customers or communities.
Poor operational decisions result in the closing of a plant or factory.
Not all crises are brought on by the companies themselves. Sometimes, companies become mired in a global crisis they didn’t start and can’t control.
That is the issue at hand here.
What do you do when you find yourself handling a crisis you didn’t cause and can’t stop, but could be blamed for by your customers?
The fact that you didn’t cause the crisis won’t keep your business from suffering loss.
Even when you can’t control a crisis, you can control how you respond, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Preparation is everything when a crisis hits.
As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Never has that been truer than in the face of a global crisis. How you respond — whether you are calm and collected or flustered and floundering — depends on how prepared you are for the crisis.
Crisis Versus Issue — What’s the Difference?
Before diving into how your company should prepare for a global crisis, it’s important to define what a crisis is and what it’s not. In short, an issue won’t harm your company’s reputation or affect its bottom line. Issues can be avoided and usually pass quickly.
In contrast, a crisis could damage your company’s reputation and cause long-term, negative effects. Chief among those effects is a loss of money. Also, crises tend to stick around for more than one or two news cycles.
So, where should you start? What do you tackle first? How do you handle a crisis? How do you respond to a global crisis you didn’t create?
These five crisis communication tips will guide the way and help you weather the storm.
5 Crisis Communication Tips for Weathering a Global Crisis Well
1. Create a business continuity plan.
This is something your company should already have for likely crises that could disrupt your operations. You don’t have to experience a crisis to prepare for it.
What could cause your company to go down?
Loss of electrical power or telecommunications would hamper many companies and could be caused by any number of circumstances.
Street repairs could inadvertently lead to power failure at your company’s headquarters or production facility.
A hurricane could wipe out one of your call centers.
How will you respond?
A business continuity plan (BCP) explains what steps your company will take to resume full operations. If you wait until you’re in the throes of the crisis to create one, you’ve waited too long. The time to put one together is today.
As for crisis communications, you’ll want an escalation plan to be part of your BCP. Determine when you will inform key stakeholders, including customers and employees, about the crisis and how it is impacting your operations.
2. Develop an internal policy to guide how you will talk about the crisis.
Every employee must understand what issues could impact operations. Think through what aspects of your operation can continue at full speed, which ones can continue at reduced capacity and which aspects will cease entirely. Try to determine the period of disruption as well. Then, share that information with your employees.
Knowledge is power.
This is especially true in a global crisis.
The more informed your employees are, the more empowered they are to make sound decisions and deliver customer service that positions your company as a leader headed in the direction of success.
Think through potential events that could occur because of the crisis and plan a list of communications in response. When those events become realities, you’ll be ready to act.
3. Remember that a global crisis calls for a global conversation.
When a crisis is global, the conversation about it must be as well. Don’t let the scale of your operations dictate your conversation. Rather, let the scale of the crisis guide the scale of your conversation about it.
Your company may only have operations in one state or one country, but the crisis is happening everywhere. Pay attention to global trends. Events on the other side of the world could quickly and unexpectedly affect your little corner of it.
Coronavirus is a perfect example. What began in Wuhan, China, spread to all of the inhabited world within a matter of weeks. It didn’t start on your doorstep, but it’s ringing your doorbell now.
4. Think culturally.
This goes with crisis communication tip #3. It’s just a simple way of saying that you need to be thoughtful about how you communicate in a global crisis. The words you use may carry different meanings in different parts of the world.
It’s easy to forget that social media is global.
When you tweet or post something on Facebook or LinkedIn, you are communicating with the world. As such, you need to be culturally sensitive in a time of global crisis. Consider making posts in various languages and think through how someone on the other side of the world may interpret your company’s message.
5. Create crisis communication templates.
Think through various types of crises that could impact your operations and develop communication templates to address them before they happen. Much of the language will be generic, yet still relevant to that type of crisis. Create fields that allow you to make that template specific to the particular crisis your company is facing.
Doing so will help your communications team get your message out faster, which is critical. Instead of running around like chickens with their heads cut off, your team will be freed to communicate with and provide service to your customers, who are also likely dealing with the crisis.
You may not cause every crisis your business experiences, but you can be responsible for what happens after it hits. How prepared you are will determine how much damage you suffer or, conversely, how much success you see.
Don’t make the mistake of failing to prepare. Take steps today to prepare your company for future crises.
If all of this sounds overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, call us. The communications and public relations professionals at OBI Creative have helped companies around the world weather crises, large and small.
We’re ready to help you weather any storm. Contact us today to discuss a crisis communication plan for your company or organization.