Crisis communications

When crisis hits your company, how will you protect your customer relationships and brand reputation?  The way you approach crisis communication can make all the difference.

It’s essential to be prepared with crisis management communications that effectively support your customers. But all too often, companies focus on the wrong things.

Maybe you consider, “What do we want people to know?” But when your customers are negatively impacted, you need to view the crisis from their perspective.

Reframe crisis communication to be customer-centric

Think about what your customers and stakeholders will want and need to know, and address their top concerns first.

Ask yourself, “What will help people feel reassured? What can we do and say to demonstrate we’re doing everything we can, as fast as we can,  to fix this?”

Honest, accountable communication helps build trust — and that’s your company’s key asset, especially in a crisis.

People want honesty, accountability, and open lines of communication. It helps build trust — and that’s your company’s key asset, especially in a crisis.

Mitigating a crisis involves more than a sincere apology, but it’s good place to start. Most often, customers’ negative reactions are rooted in how they feel about the incident (and how they’re treated) more than the issue itself. So it’s important to respond to their concerns quickly and effectively.

Be ready before, during, and after

A good crisis communication plan should cover three key phases: pre-crisis, crisis response, and post-crisis.

  1. Pre-crisis: Proactively develop a plan for how to address crises when they arise.
    • Assess your company for vulnerable areas that may be at risk of negative events.
    • Differentiate between an issue (something that can cause friction, but ultimately causes no lasting damage to the brand) and a crisis (which can lead to profit loss and permanently harm your brand).
    • Identify a single spokesperson (the more senior, the better). Prepare a customer-centric holding statement that acknowledges the issue, apologizes for disruption/inconvenience, lets people know how you’re actively dealing with the situation, and estimates when customers can expect to receive updates.
  2. Crisis response: Be an empathetic voice of calm.
    • Respond quickly, even if you’re still researching the facts (remember your holding statement!).
    • Extinguish the fires: while online news and social media can quickly escalate a crisis, you should leverage those platforms to diffuse it quickly with the right responses, and link to a published statement.
    • Ensure responses are clear, concise, and believable. But don’t be abrupt or formal. Communicate with an approachable, conversational tone, and use reassuring messaging.
    • Enable a two-way conversation, if possible. Create a space where customers can respond and you can manage an ongoing dialogue and monitor impact.
  3. Post-crisis: Follow up on your words with actions.
    • Review the metrics — What were the outcomes of your crisis management communications? Which messages resonated and which caused more complaints?
    • Identify your strengths and weaknesses in your current crisis communication strategy and revise it accordingly.

Bottom line: Effective crisis communication helps mitigate risk

Large and small businesses, non-profit organizations, universities, government agencies — any can be affected by a crisis and need to act quickly. With the right preparation and effective communications, you can minimize negative impacts.

Create a plan that puts customer and stakeholder concerns first, and takes ownership of problems. It helps you turn a crisis into an opportunity to reinforce or improve your reputation, and rebuild confidence in your brand.

Need fresh approaches for your crisis management communications? At Beyond the Arc, we’ve helped create strategic communications for AT&T and a Top 5 bank — and we can help you too. Let’s talk about what you need >

Image Source: