Crisis communication – practical PR strategies for reputation management and company survival

Editor: Peter F. Anthonissen

The fact that we live in a transparent world means that no organization is immune to the threat of a potential crisis . That (a crisis) does not necessarily mean a disaster that occurs. You can significantly limit the damage and sometimes turn it into an opportunity through the right communication. That communication can make or break you.

It is the transparency of communication, where most managers struggle, that allows the organization to create an image of openness. This is most appreciated by the stakeholders, they trust this the most. Preparation, speed, transparency and efficiency are the concepts that are of great importance.

A crisis plan (and a crisis communication plan) is an important asset in the VUCA world. Immunity does not exist, but dealing with a crisis and turning it into an opportunity is an art. Targeted and fast communication can even strengthen the reputation of the organization. Stakeholders and courts judge according to the approach. It is necessary to put people first, for the interests of the company. In that case, the organization often gets a second chance.

Training is essential if you ever need to speak to the media or get on the radio. Preparation is the key to success there too. That sometimes hurts the board members of an organization: they are busy, do not see the usefulness of it, or do not dare to reveal themselves. That can lead to a worsening of the situation when it comes to that.

The chance of being confronted with a crisis increases over time. Why? Which things cause a crisis? Human action errors, errors of judgment, not responding in a timely manner, not anticipating signals, mechanical errors, or simply denying that a crisis can affect anyone. It is also a fact that organizations are increasingly confronted with liability, which they have to make public. The public wants immediate accountability. And she wants to know what is being done about the crisis and how the problems are being tackled.

Some successful crisis communication principles are:

– Always assume the worst case scenario

– Make sure you have a CMP (Crisis Management Plan) and CCP (Crisis Communication Plan)

– Don’t waste time, don’t delay, so prepare

– People always come first

– Speed ​​of reaction to take and keep control of the situation

In addition: learn lessons from the crisis. It is not because the acute crisis situation is over that it is over. Take initiatives so that the same crisis can no longer occur. But also learn from crises that occur in the competition, or even in other sectors. The actions to be taken during a crisis must also be trained. Role plays can help with that. This shows the internal and external environment that the organization takes the crises seriously and is actively preparing. The crisis awareness of the employees is increasing and it is building credit with the public.

Strategic communication in crisis management – Lessons from the Airline Industry

Author: Sally J. Ray

The context of plane crashes is a central example of what threatens the legitimacy of the airline, its image and reputation, and the financial situation. It has a tendency to transmit across the industry, hitting not only the victims and the airline, but also the stakeholders. The aviation society must therefore protect its long-term interests and public image. To this end, an effective communication plan is critical. This can be built up according to the course of a crisis in three phases: pre-crisis, crisis and post-crisis. Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that the crisis extends to more than just the organization. It is a system with many interdependent variables, so focusing on only part of the system is limiting our understanding of the crisis and the communication involved.

In a plane crash, trying to understand the necessary communication raises a number of questions: which factors influence communication? How do these factors define the boundaries of the organization’s efforts to repair the reputation damage and resolve the crisis? Which communication strategies are the most effective? Which variables influence that effectiveness? How can an organization prepare to manage one of the crisis?

To effectively address the effects of a crisis, managers must understand its nature, management rules and the implications of right and wrong communications. This provides a sense of predictability and expectations when a crisis occurs.

Throughout the story, theory and practice are intertwined. The practice consists of a number of drawn-out cases of plane crashes, in which the communication is dissected in a “ scrutinizing ” way, each time identifying a number of crystal-clear lessons.

The six most important lessons of strategic communication in crisis management from the aviation sector are perhaps :

  • A key to effective crisis management is the development of a responsible organizational culture that values ​​safety and is sensitive to the dangers of its operational operation.
  • Planning for crises reduces some of the uncertainty associated with managing a crisis; however, crisis managers must anticipate the challenges of applying a rational plan to an irrational situation. This requires a 360 ° view: people with different backgrounds, education and interests must be recruited or a great deal of education and training must be provided.
  • An organization in crisis must communicate from the beginning that it is in control and is concerned about the situation.
  • An organization must be sensitive to stakeholder perceptions of the actions and reactions of the organization during the crisis.
  • The media attention determines the seriousness, significance and direction of the crisis and is directly reflected upon the organization’s image; therefore crisis managers need to have a very good understanding of the journalistic processes in covering a crisis.
  • When an organization defends its position or image, its strategic communication choice must be determined against the background of this unique crisis situation.

Crisis Communication Planning – A Guide to Dealing with the Media during a Crisis

Author: Tim Herrera

The essence of crisis communication is told by the author based on checklists. He begins his story with a search for a definition of crisis. What types of crises that can affect the organization are we talking about here ? The examples he gives can all be classified as tame crises:

  • Accident / death
  • Crime
  • Natural disaster
  • Employee misconduct
  • Financial problems
  • Protests
  • Product recall

The big advice is to plan ahead of time in case a crisis strikes. You do that by:

  • Make emergency plans in advance
  • Create a crisis management team
  • Create a strategic communication plan
  • Appoint a spokesperson
  • Create key messages
  • Determine the best communication channels
  • Never to talk about things you don’t know about
  • Be honest and open
  • Learn to relax
  • Determine the stakeholders and accept the interested parties
  • Draw up a response checklist
  • Determine what the media can ask for during a crisis
  • Determine a crisis meeting agenda in advance
  • Determine if you will need outside help.

It is important in the work of the incident management team that it is complementary to the operation of the media response plan. It is best to have a group of managers / volunteers who can be called together quickly. The spokesperson can then work with them to disseminate the information where necessary.

Questions to answer when drawing up the strategic communication plan are:

  • What’s the issue about?
  • What’s the solution?
  • Who can help create change?
  • Who should be mobilized?

These questions are regardless of whether you work in the short or long term, the answers will determine what it will be.

When you get these questions right, answer in a single sentence “what this is all about”. What do you want people to remember from how you handle this crisis? Stay with the core of that message and go further on from there.

Also identify the “rulers” in the community: they could be students, political leaders, legislators, business people, parents… and keep them in mind when creating the message. This does not only apply in times of crisis.

What should not be forgotten at the end, but neither during the handling of the crisis and the crisis communication is an evaluation : how you will determine whether the plan worked out or not. Whether the plan was successful. This indicates opportunities to adjust the plan but also to adjust the business.

And another important fact: during a crisis, continuing to respond and communicate is of vital importance.

The immediate duties of the spokesperson and the crisis communication team are:

  1. First alarm
  2. Gather the facts
  3. Verify the information and keep the information up to date
  4. Prepare the media (calls and visits)
  5. Get ready to receive reporters.
  6. Follow-up of the media and current relations

The Storyteller’s secret

Author: Carmine Gallo

In this book, the author explains the secrets of the best storytellers. Each of them has his own success story. But how do they do it? The readers of the book “Talk like TED” have a strong sequel in this book, where more secrets are uncovered. I include this book in my bibliography because telling stories is or should be made relevant for everyone at every level in every organization.

According to the author, there are 5 types of storytellers:

1 ° Storytellers who fuel our inner fire.

2 ° Story tellers who teach us something.

3 ° Storytellers who make things easier.

4 ° Storytellers who motivate us.

5 ° Storytellers who set movements in motion.

From each of these groups of storytellers, the author makes an analysis of how they do the story on the basis of illustrious illustrative examples. I give here a brief summary of the “lessons identified”.

1 ° Storytellers who fuel our inner fire.
  • Let your passion float and share it
  • The question is: “What will make your heart beat faster?”
  • Rigid optimism: see a failure as a lesson to improve your storytelling technique.
  • Believe in the power of your idea.
  • Practice! You shape yourself by practicing.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Tell your story personally.
  • Bring a tension in your story.
  • Do not shy away from difficult subjects. They build an emotional bond with the audience.
  • Use in your story the technique of the three-part stories (eg trigger, transformation and life lesson)
  • Put from your experience or from an event that gave rise to your ambition into the story to become part of the folklore of your organization.
  • Use a higher goal, a higher mission, in your story as a motivator.
  • Sometimes, use the following three steps (Peter Guber):

    • Attract attention with a question or an unexpected challenge
    • Provide an emotional experience through a story about the struggle that ultimately leads to the challenge
    • Stimulate your story with a ‘call to action’.

2 ° Story tellers who teach us something.

  • Facts and numbers are fun and important, but rarely have a place in a story or a pitch. You should not touch people in their heads but in their hearts.
  • 65% of your content must consist of stories. It creates confidence and a deeper emotional bond with the audience.
  • Break through expected patterns in a positive, shocking or surprising way. E.g. Bill Gates released mosquitoes in a room at a TED talk.
  • Use analogies. This helps understanding information and concepts that others have no knowledge of.
  • Do not use statistics or jargon.
  • Tell us about the problem you had, and how you solved it. Use specific, concrete and relevant details.
  • Tell a story in which the customer recognizes himself.
  • A brand is not a single story. Share the stage with the good storytellers of your organization. Everyone has a story.
  • Humor is a powerful emotionally charged event. That is why you use it best just before a moment that you want the listener to remember. It is followed by focused listening. It increases the effective transfer of the message afterwards.
  • Know what you are talking about and be and stay true to your brand.
  • Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram are meant to leave just enough information to attract attention to the rest of your content.
  • Our brains are set on stories, not on abstract matters.
  • The feeling you give people is important to adjust behavior.
  • Exceed expectations. Put the dots on the ‘i’.

3 ° Storytellers who make things easier.

  • If you can not make something clear on the back of an envelope, it is a bad idea.
  • A good story starts with a good header that immediately makes both the idea and the message clear.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say and preferably use (only) a few thought-out words.
  • Use the three-line rule. It gives structure, simplicity and action.
  • Use simple and accessible language so that students from a primary school can understand it.
  • Use video. Enter a conversation with the viewer.
  • Use imagery, and less, less and less text to give a presentation a lively image with feeling.
  • Introduce heroes and villains to keep the story simple.
  • Keep the story to the most important things that everyone can understand.
  • Simplify every complexity.
  • Practice a pitch until it becomes interesting and it can be given in 60 seconds.

4 ° Storytellers who motivate us.

  • You need a struggle to have a villain overcome by the hero. The struggle is a sign of honor.
  • Never believe the story of “having or not having DNA for success”.
  • Motivate others to dream bigger and achieve everything that we are capable of.
  • Do not break bricks, do not work for an income, but build a cathedral.
  • Sketch with stories an image behind the mission and vision of the organization.
  • Use stories to make culture. Make your people passionate about it. Let the employees see that they are the hero in their own story with the customer. Share their stories. Put them in the spotlight.
  • Inspire with stories about adversity, grief and victory. Use tension and triumph.
  • Share in the lessons from the past with others. Those that gave you strength. Appreciate and protect your origin.
  • Speak about real people who have endured hardships. It sets an emotional heart on fire.
  • Use specific, lively, tangible and concrete details
5 ° Storytellers who set movements in motion.
  • Use short words and short sentences and a minimum of words.
  • Use metaphors and anaphors.
  • Use tension and triumph to empathize the audience.
  • Do not use an endless list of facts and figures and other information. Use facts to convince in balance with a trip to another time and place by means of a presentation.
  • Put the audience in the situation of the hero. Give them the feeling that they can help determine the outcome.
  • Make the story big.
  • Technology complements a story, but the story comes first.

A final addition I would like to make is the following: do not shy away from an opportunity to sharpen your storytelling technique.

Good Practice Guidelines – 2018 Edition – The Global guide to good practice in business continuity

Published by The Business Continuity Institute

This edition of the GPG differs according to its own saying in numerous ways from the 2013 edition. Some of those that stayed with me are:

–    More collaboration of the BCM employees with other employees in other management disciplines.
–   
Supply chain was integrated more into the story.
–   
More links are being made to ISO standards.
–   
Risk assessment has gained importance.

There are other things that have changed, which are noticeable:

–    Throughout the work, the link is regularly made to information security, but without referring to the ISO 27K series.
–   
The BIA is still a 4-tuple, but the mandatory character has been changed to “use what you need”
–   
A distinction has been made between crisis management and incident management.
–   
There is a better explanation for strategic, tactical and operational plans in times of crisis. However, without mentioning that the choice is also important as a function of what one needs. This piece remained theoretically sharply separated.
–   
There is a beautiful table here and there with more explanation of what is meant, such as the table with specific core competences and management skills that are required by the BCM responsible, divided according to the 6 professional practices.

In the book, extensive attention was given to PP6: ‘Validation’. Practicing and validating the operation of the BC program of the organization is very important as the keystone of the cycle to its restart.

In summary, we can state that the book is important for the beginners in BCM, but also for the advanced as a reference book.

What I personally regret that lacks is a bibliography for each chapter. For further reading I have the feeling that the interested parties are somewhat abandoned. But then there is the URL of ‘The Business Continuity Institute’ where you can find more information. (www.thebci.org).