The A-Z of Crisis Communications Management

If you’ve ever had a crisis hit your business you’ll almost certainly have felt the shock it comes with, asking what went wrong? Where did that come from? What happened to make the wheels fell off, building explode or make someone famous overnight (and not in a good way)?

A crisis can come from quite literally anywhere, as anyone who works in crisis comms or management is only too aware. Senior leaders, spokespeople, stakeholders, shareholders, SME’s (oh and don’t forget the PR people dealing with it) should all know what crisis is, have a plan and a level of awareness of how to deal with it far beyond what most honestly do at present.

Anyone can have a crisis

In 2019, PwC conducted its first ever Global Crisis Survey which found that 69% (1 in 7) of the 2,034 senior executives interviewed had experienced at least one crisis in the last 5 years. This survey was conducted pre-Covid 19!

What constitutes a crisis? Something that affects your business and stops you dead in your tracks. Something that affects you and several people in the business and disrupts days of work. It can stop production; make marketing pull all the advertising or plunge a company into darkness. A crisis is defined as ‘anything that can damage the reputation, growth or continued operation of your business’.

Unexpected or a bubbling issue?

Crisis is usually unexpected and unknown but there are certain occasions where you will have a warning. If you have problems that bubble away, they will come back to bite you.

Have you or your company got a weak spot, ‘hotspot’ or a danger zone that you need to avoid or steer around! Something that you know if delved into could cause a bigger problem? Has one of your subsidiaries or employees broken the rules? Not followed protocol when disposing of old stock or materials?

69% (1 in 7) of the 2,034 senior executives interviewed had experienced at least one crisis

Don’t ignore it

Whether it’s a hotspot or a complete surprise crisis will escalate at an extremely fast pace. Be prepared or prepare to fail. If you don’t prepare, then you will end up in hot water, in a crisis that involves disaster recovery. Once it’s public, it’s even harder to claw back your reputation and recover.

Crisis really can come from anywhere. Let’s start by understanding what you could face.

Here’s a few examples of crisis that could blow a hole in your business and reputation.

What can go wrong……

A is for Attacks, Arson, Anger or Accidents

Looking at these first four examples you might immediately dismiss these as irrelevant to your business. Think again.

If you are a travel specialist or a haulage supplier, I’m sure you have experienced all types of accidents in transportation. Whether that’s a customer falling down an escalator, delayed or cancelled flights, a road accident or a fatal crash? In certain industries these are expected events that are anticipated. An accident is just that an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury”.

Literally anyone could have an accident. Something going wrong in a factory, a car crash involving key members of staff, travel disasters that can trap people in different countries (The ash cloud of 2010 or Covid 19).  Link in a few other examples; Anger and Accidents; it could then equal road rage. Think again, what damage could an angry golfer cause? He or she could lose their temper and launch a golf club, hit a nearby golf cart which careers into a tree, which falls and destroys a nearby gazebo filled with four other golfers. I could go on!

The point is an accident can happen to anyone, any business on any occasion!

B is for Business Continuity, Bullying or Buyouts

Business Continuity and Risk Assessments are carried out to develop a process for ‘if’ your building was, for example, bombed. Your plans should include how you would deal with the bombing and destruction and where you would set up a new site to continue working. Supporting the ‘continuation of your business’ and ‘identifying risk’. While a bombing maybe a drastic example to plan for you could use the same process to consider flooding which is now becoming a regular occurrence.

Whatever the destructive issue, crisis communications need to be part of that process and discussion as early as possible. While your PR or Communications Team won’t find you a new premise they will communicate with staff, suppliers and your wider stakeholder groups. You don’t want 50 or more staff turning up to a site that isn’t fit for purpose. It would offer any press in attendance a photo and interview opportunity you’d rather they didn’t get.

Without the correct social media policy just one member of staff ‘broadcasting’ the news will attract attention. If a customer turned up on site, how would they react? Communication is key to ensure an issue doesn’t escalate at a faster pace, and to protect your reputation on every occasion.

B is also for Bullying: Staggering stats on bulling in the workplace were revealed last year. A survey in 2020 reported that 71 percent of people surveyed had admitted to experiencing or witnessed bullying at work.

If a problem occurs it’s crucial for the communications and legal team to work as a unit. Bullying or harassment falls under gross misconduct. Consider how you communicate about an employee leaving the business. It could be a senior c-suite member or a junior, but both will require the same level of concern and careful communication. There is a big difference between misconduct (efor example, lateness or unauthorised absence) versus gross misconduct which includes theft, physical violence, gross negligence, or serious subordination.

A cautiously crafted statement that fits all the legal requirements needs to be issued both internally and externally. If the news is picked up by a journalist or social media, you need to be clear on what happens next. Do you comment, issue a statement or is the statement simply that ‘person x has left the company due to gross misconduct’?

Are your communication team capable of delivering bad news as efficiently as good news? If not, who will lead this? Your designated crisis team is your most important corporate PR asset.

C is for Cyber-attacks; Cyber security; Chemical disaster, Covid, Cost Cutting; CEO conduct; Communications.

Cyber-attacks and security are hot topics. While we become more reliant on the World Wide Web we are sharing more and more data. GDPR is going some way to keeping that data private but what about keeping it safe?

Your Cyber-Security firm might offer you an ’emergency response’ service, to monitor and shut everything down as soon as a ‘hack or attack’ is detected. How is that communicated and when things go wrong what are the communications delivered? How do you ‘reassure’ customers that you are dealing with it, their data is safe and what the next steps are? What does it mean to the rest of the industry? Think closer to home, other customers in the same field or potential customers.

Scenario: If you, as a Cyber-Security firm were responsible for Wembley Arena and for the latest Ed Sheeran gig. The systems are hacked.   

Questions: Who would the attack on the data effect? Who’s affect first, the most and what’s the lasting impact?

The data held is on the fans, the arena, security on the artist and gig set up.  Think about the potential impact on other ‘artists’ and venues? How will they be affected? Having a data security leak publicly discussed could lead to you losing not just Mr Sheeran and Wembley Area but several other customers and all their fans. You could lose their support, respect and business within hours of the leak going public. How do you contain the issue, restore faith and communicate what’s next? It’s not just about stopping the attack, appeasing the current artist, fans and the venue but your communications, how you deal with the issue will have a lasting impact on your future business and bookings. Don’t forget your staff either. If they lose faith you might just find you are hemorrhaging staff too.

Fear is a good motivator

If you’re now feeling slightly hot under the collar fear not. There is a process, methodology and solution to help you deal with a crisis. Do you need training? Do you need to review your process and planning? You can start by booking in a FREE consultation. We will listen to your concerns and suggest a course of action.

In the meantime, below is a full A-Z of things associated with crisis.

Give me a topic or industry and with a bit of imagination, I can give you an example of something that went wrong or is a danger. Basically, a crisis waiting to happen.

Blowing up issues or exploring situations like the above falls into the category of scenario planning. It’s a tool used for training. If you or your senior leadership team can’t imagine what could go wrong it can be demonstrated in training.  Talk to your legal team and discuss Dawn Raid protocol.

Tools and solutions

The good news is that we have the skills and experience to help you. Ideally when that wheel is wobbling and not when it’s fallen off, you’ve crashed into the tree and are lying there thinking what’s next? Worst still you’re back at home and while you don’t know where the incident came from you and everyone else know what happened, what the damage is as it’s all over social media and the media!

Deal with it before it gets completely out of control!

Politician or business person having interview with politicians. Toned image

Own the story, DON’T be the story.

Here’s the A-Z of things associated with crisis.

Alerts; Audit; Assessments; Audiences; Applications; Awards; Agencies; Announcement; Angry customers; Attack; Assessments; Accidents; Arson; Anger;
Briefings; Business Continuity; Beliefs; Blocks; Brand rows; Breaches BSE; Buyouts; Budgets; Bugs; Bridging Techniques; Body Language; Bullying; Bribes; Boycott;
Challenges; Coaching; Choices; Concept Control; Call Log; Courses; Content; Context; Coverage; Carbon footprint; Customer complaints; Customer services or lack of it; Consumer products; Christmas hot buys; Collectables; Customer complaints; Celebrities, Influencers; Communications; Competitors; Crisis Communications; CEO; Creative; Contacts; Crisis Curve; Confusion; Cancellations; Cost Cutting; Connections; Contests; Commotion; Chocolate; Chemicals; C-Suite; COVID 19; Conduct; Campaigners;  Cancellations; Code; Channel; Clarity;
Disciplinaries; Death; Dawn Raids; Dark Web; Dialogue; Detail; Discussions; Danger; Digital; Destruction; Diversity; Data; Denial;
Emergency recovery; Emergency protocol; EU issues; External Communications; Errors; End; Education; Emotions; Earned Media; Escalation; Expulsion; EU; Explosion;
Fights; Facts; Fiction; Football or other sporting issues; Faulty goods; Flow; Fines; Fees; Fires; Fan trouble; Fraud; Flood; Fast; Famine; Fans; Facial expressions; Fidgeting; Fame; Fans; Fat issues, Fat Tax; Food poisoning; Faith;
Government Guideline changes; Goals; Grief; GDPR; Guests; Grey Board; Gender:
HR; Health; How; Host; Hate; Hope; Hacks; Hostages;
Incidents; Internal Communications; Interviews; Issues; Imagination; Interrogation; Innovation; Instagram; Inclusion; Improvement; Influences; Injections;
Jury; Judge; Justice; Jams; Journalists;
Key team; Killer; Knife crime; Key Messages;
Law; Leadership; Legal; Listening techniques; Learning; Lies; Lectures; Logs; LinkedIn; List; Lockdown; Leaves on the line;
Mishaps; Message House; Mindset; Multimedia; Monitoring; Marketing Mix; Mobile; Mapping; Media; Medium; Mix; Masterclasses; MPs; Misconduct;
Natural disasters; NDA; Negatives; Negotiations; Networks; Networking; Notes; Names; Newspapers; News feeds; Negligence; Negotiation;
Oceans; Obstacles; Outcomes; Owned Media; Opportunities;
Product recalls, Packaging (too much or too little); Planet; PR; Protocols; Pain; Press Conferences; Press Briefings; People; Planning; Preparation; Panels; Procedures; Processes; Problem solving; Proof Points; Podcasts; Pubs; Positives; Practice; Planes; Prevention; People; Policies; Police;
Quotes; Questions; Q&As;
Risks; Risk Register; Reviews; Redundancy, Relocations; Rain; Records; World Records; Research; Roadmap; Revelations; Roles & Responsibilities; Recovery; Repair; Reasoning; Recording; Rules; Responses; Reception; Records; Reality; Reality TV; Rescue;
Salmonella: Social media; Stunts; Snow; Statements; Spokesperson; Sentiment; Scenarios; Sorry; Stakeholders; Shareholders; Strategy; Solutions; Storage; SME’s; Salt; Sugar; Shortages; Sexism; Speed;
TV; Threat Rating; Training; Techniques; Team; Tone; Technology; Twitter; Truth; Trouble; Track; Trace; Trouble; Tools; Tests; Terrorists; Topics; TikToK; Timing;
Umbrella Policies; Unemployment; Unions; USP;
Vocal; Voice Overs; Venom; Video; Visuals; Views; Values; Vermin; Vaccinations; 
World Cup Issues; Website; Webinars; What; Why; When; Who; Where; Wording; Weakness; Wasting time; Waste; Worst; World Records;
Xray; Generation X

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