Just as lawyers defend clients in a court of law, crisis management firms defend clients in the court of public opinion. When sudden and unexpected events threaten the reputation or integrity of a high profile organization or prominent individual, crisis managers like Digital Strategies develop plans to respond meaningfully and very rapidly.
If the first time you think about a crisis communications plan is when you need one, you will probably have a bad day at the office. The key to managing communications crises successfully is anticipating problems and heading them off before they happen.
Given that, let’s explore some shared attributes of many crisis management situations. Most communications crises have three characteristics:
- Crisis often comes on quickly, with little or no warning.
- It threatens the reputation or integrity of the business or person targeted.
- It requires rapid response.
An Overview of Common Business Crisis Situations
- Reputation Management in Google Search Results. Often, these issues deal with negative or derogatory information, or stalkers who harass clients. Sometimes they involve blackmail of sensitive information or images.
- Litigation support for civil or criminal litigation. Especially when defending against these matters, clients turn to crisis management to crate and deliver sophisticated communications plans.
- Data breach and security issues which result in loss of personal and confidential information. These often result in civil litigation, and regulatory or other governmental action. They also can cause harm to reputation and business relationships when sensitive information is released or consumer private information is compromised.
- Workplace misconduct, including “#metoo” claims of sexual wrongdoing, employee violence, labor-management problems, or whistleblowing. Of course, this is a rapidly escalating issue for many organizations and individuals, who are in some cases being held to account for claims that may be decades old, with limited evidence.
- Business disasters, from consumer harm to facility violence or damage through natural or manmade events. It’s easy to understand why business disasters can have a long lasting effect on reputation. During these circumstances, it’s important to have a well organized and authentic response to minimize business harm.
Of course, there are many others circumstances that fall under the umbrella of crisis management as well. One characteristic of crisis is that it is by definition unpredictable. At Digital Strategies, we have worked side-by-side with clients in hundreds of similar circumstances, so we are expert in evaluating and developing crisis communications plans.
Elements of Crisis Management Plans
- Rapid Evaluation: In crisis, evaluation is the most important phase of work. Usually there is a “fog of war” surrounding crisis situations, facts are unclear and often siloed among a lot of people. Conjecture is mixed in, and usually there is time pressure to respond to adversaries or media. This is a perfect storm that leads to miscommunication, unforced errors, and poor message discipline when it is most needed. We quickly and completely surface all knowledge, and separate opinions from known facts.
- Day One Strategy: We craft a rapid communications strategy. Initial statements, media outreach, and stakeholder communications are primary. Many organizations forget that talking to employees, customers and vendors is as important as speaking with media. First statements must be as specific as reasonably possible, but also carefully crafted to avoid speculation or assertion that may later need to be rolled back. We will work together to make decisions on media availability for interviews, and who will be in the spokesperson role. Central to this process is finding the right voice: authentic, empathetic, and authoritative.
- Tactical Iteration: As crises evolve, each will require different tactics and messaging going forward after Day One. We will develop the longer plan with you, including (as needed) story placement in major publications, social media messaging, tactical websites, rapid response to media and inaccuracies, stakeholder communications and other needs. Our role is to manage the high effort, high impact processes of crisis, so that your key staff can spend more of their time on their regular roles. Crisis can be a business distraction; we work in ways to minimize disruption while maximizing results.
Every Crisis Requires a Unique Response
Of course, every crisis is unique, and your needs will vary from these. Check out some of our success stories. But understanding the core elements of a crisis management communications plan in advance will help in the event bad news comes calling at your door.
Let Digital Strategies be your first call after that happens.