Crisis communications: preparing for recovery

April 14, 2022

Ema Asler

In part two of our three-part crisis communications series, inspired by last month’s P World’s Crisis Communication Bootcamp, we focus on the important elements to consider when implementing an actionable crisis communications plan. (If you haven’t already read Part one on cancel culture, read here ).

When a crisis occurs, the first step is to act quickly and effectively to mitigate reputational damage.

We’ve specified “when” rather than “if” an issue arises, because no matter the size or sector – every organization is vulnerable. Finding the right balance of resources, planning and communication is crucial to ensure that all stakeholders and audiences are informed with timely and relevant information. This balance is at the core of successful reputation management and recovery.

Leveraging your crisis communications team

Whether developed by the organization internally or with the support of a PR agency partner, roles and responsibilities must be determined and assigned to ensure operations run efficiently during a crisis. Ideally, this should be done in ADVANCE of a crisis as part of a regular planning cycle. Scrambling to do this as a crisis unfolds can take up valuable time needed to start responding.

Establishing an in-house crisis team or having an agency partner on standby during the early stages of a crisis is critical to not only ensuring you deliver a timely response, but that your response is strategic and authentic for an efficient and credible recovery.

The four phases of emergency communications

Once created and/or activated, the crisis communications team is responsible for the detailed emergency communications tactical roll-out. A successful response plan not only manages the immediate response to the crisis, but also considers practical, long-term strategies to safeguard the reputation of the organization. The following four steps or phases, which span both reactive and proactive tactics, provide impactful results:

  1. Notification (immediate action) – Notify all stakeholder audiences that an incident has occurred and establish the organization as a credible source of timely and accurate information. It is important to ensure that staff, stakeholders and the general public are informed. This first phase should occur between 15 minutes to 1 hour after the crisis has occurred.
    • Examples of communications tools: Emails, tweets/social posts, web page updates, website alerts, holding statements, etc.
  2. Confirmation (short-term action) – Confirm the facts that have been established related to the crisis. This phase includes short-term response measures that should occur one to two hours from the start of the crisis.
    • Update email, additional tweets/social posts, revisions to holding statements as more information is known
  3. Instruction (medium-term/ongoing action) – Provide audiences with relevant, ongoing information and instructions, ideally two to five hours post-crisis initiation.
    • Communications tools can include: Press release, spokesperson interview availability, additional social media/website updates, etc.
  4. Reassure and sustain (long-term action) – Regularly provide information on crisis response and recovery. Sustain the long-term, strategic messages that are meaningful to your various audiences. Note that different audiences will need different, relevant messaging. The fourth phase is ongoing and usually begins one business day from the start of the crisis.

Steering safely through the storm

If the first instinct is to panic when a crisis arises, it’s important to remember that remaining focused and calm is key. Having a thoughtful and accessible crisis plan will take some of the pressure off. Take a breath, be patient and trust the crisis communications plan and supporting team twill guide the recovery.

No one can predict when a crisis will hit, but preparation is essential.

First steps can be daunting, and internal resources don’t always allow for this kind of proactivity. But the reality is that the only way to ensure a successful recovery is to be ready.

When companies work with a PR agency, experienced, individual account teams provide valuable counsel and help manage the response. At K&P – it’s one of the things we do best. With more than 60 years of combined experience, our team leaves nothing to chance. Our roles are woven into the fabric of each account structure, so when crises arise, we already have someone monitoring traditional and social media 24-7, (as crises rarely happen between 9-5), developing holding statements and other materials (as needed ), coordinating executive travel and providing strategic counsel to the client team every step of the way.

Reach out to us today at info@kaiserpartners to get started.

Have a question? Interested in finding out more?