The ultimate strategic crisis communication plan

5 minutes   |  HOSPITALITY & EVENTS

In Module 8 of the UCT Public Relations (PR) Management online short course, you’ll learn how to manage a crisis, understand the problem and plan a brand-appropriate response. On this public relations course, you’ll master the ability to maintain brand transparency and learn how to create a bulletproof PR communication risk proposal.

To become a successful Public Relations Manager you need to include risk prevention and preparation in your crisis communication strategy from the start. Without a comprehensive communication plan in place to stop threats from escalating to crises, brands and businesses will fail to save their reputations from becoming tarnished.

Learn how to have a measured approach to crisis planning and download a free summarised template from the public relations course to keep on file for when you prepare your next PR campaign.

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Business Dictionary defines crisis communication management as:

“The effort taken by a company to communicate with the public and stockholders when an unexpected event occurs that could have a negative impact on the company’s reputation.”1

Crisis communication aims to minimise the negative risk impacts and maximise the positive risks identified for a project or brand. To set up a crisis communication plan there are five key steps to follow:

1. Assess and Identify Potential Risks

Be proactive by brainstorming:

– Identify potential crises for your brand

– Conduct an internal vulnerability audit

– List best-case/worst-case scenarios

– Develop holding statements and responses

– Practise social listening actively

– Locate customer dissatisfaction and take action first

2. Define your Communication Guidelines

For general guidelines on messaging, be sure to address:

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3. Have a set of key actions

“The best way to cope with the day you hope will never come,” argues Lecturer,Yago de la Cierva, “is to have a series of action items that consider the person, the organisation and society carefully.”2

In times of crisis, key actions include an ability to:

– Address perceptions. The gravity of a crisis is directly proportional to the public’s perception of it, rather than to what has actually happened on the ground.

– Listen to the people who are complaining. It’s very important to try to understand what is making people angry. Anger hinders communication, and the person you’re addressing will not listen to your message until they have had their say.

– Tune in emotionally. You need to know how to interpret the public’s mood. Communication should not be treated as an impersonal means for spreading ideas.

– Reason from the point of view of those you represent. Make it clear that the company is defending the interests of the people it serves.

– Distinguish between law and public opinion. You may be in the right, and yet be wrong. It’s best to have both legal advisers and communications experts on hand.

4. Establish Notification and Monitoring Systems

Listen in on conversations taking place online and in the media to understand what topics are being discussed and how they relate to your brand. Consistent monitoring allows you to see the crisis coming by always being on the lookout for it.

Figure out where the conversations are happening and address it there. If someone speaks up on a different platform, redirect them to where you’re talking about the crisis.

5. Identify and Know Your Stakeholders

Project and brand campaigns and communication strategies depend on the degree of a project stakeholder’s direct or indirect involvement.

According to Small Business Chron, “Stakeholder identification is important not only for determining who a project’s stakeholders are but also for determining the best way or ways to manage their expectations.”3

Stakeholders typically include employees, shareholders, unions and customer advocates. If they’re affected by your brand’s actions, add them to your list. All stakeholders will be talking about you to others not on your contact list, so it’s up to you to ensure that they receive the messages you would like them to repeat elsewhere.

6. Test, Execute and Review

Communications expert, Peter La Motte, compares crisis management to choose your own adventure books.

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Therefore, you should constantly test your plan to ensure you have every potential crisis covered. Understand that your risk communication strategy is a living, breathing document that you need to constantly work on. Reassess and reevaluate at every opportunity to add new steps to the plan.

Start implementing a structured crisis strategy and planning ahead for your brand or business. Use this PR communication crisis template to meet the demand for advanced risk preparation. Download your free template here


Want to become a valuable Public Relations Manager?

Download your course prospectus for the UCT Public Relations online short course today.

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1Source: Businessdictionary.com

2Source: Forbes.com

3Source: Smallbusiness.chron