Keeping Your Cool in a Crisis

When considering the importance of a crisis management plan, it isn’t a case of if, but when one will come in handy. A crisis is always a possibility and it’s essential that everyone from companies and nonprofit organizations to public figures and government entities are prepared.

As public relations professionals at R\West, it’s part of our team’s job to work hand-in-hand with our client partners to navigate their pre-, mid-, and post-crisis communication needs. This process can take a significant amount of time, as we must determine any and all potential crisis risks, develop anticipatory messaging, media train all appropriate spokespeople, and more – which begs the question, how prepared are you for your next crisis?

If your response to this question is “not very…”, there is no time like the present to begin creating a crisis management plan that strategically supports your business needs.

A few examples, tips and tricks to get you started:

  1. Pre-Crisis: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

No matter the location, size or industry of your business, the potential for crisis always exists. Because of this, it’s important to proactively consider every single thing that could go wrong. Think about it – anything could happen! A natural disaster, product snafus, release of sensitive information, corporate scandal. In thinking about these issues ahead of time, the unexpected becomes the potentially expected, and your team is able to better prepare for possible crises moving forward.

  1. Mid-Crisis: Get your ducks in a row.

After rolling out their new Android Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in August of this year, Samsung has been front and center in the public eye for months after numerous reports of spontaneous smoke, fire and explosions. As of October, these dangerous incidents have escalated further, leading to an airplane evacuation, hospital visit and overall fear of product safety.

Talk about a crisis, am I right?

Samsung has of course communicated a sense of care and concern for their customer’s safety, but other components of their mid-crisis response have left room for improvement. Examples include making immediate statements only to be retracted a day later, in addition to failing to officially recall the smartphone with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

While it’s important to act swiftly in a crisis, this recent case highlights the need to take a step back, carefully assess the situation at hand and align response efforts before moving forward. Take time to get the facts straight, develop accurate talking points that clearly communicate your organization’s stance, and thoroughly train the appropriate spokespeople for future media interactions. In doing so, your team will be more successful in effectively responding mid-crisis.

  1. Post-Crisis: Thoughtful reflection.

The funny thing about a crisis situation is that it’s rarely a company or organization’s last. New crises pop up everyday, and it’s important to use what’s learned in previous experiences to make the next communication plan even better.

For example, while the 2016 Rio Olympics may have been a victory for Under Armour with everyone from Michael Phelps to the US women’s gymnastics team wearing the brand, the 2014 event in Sochi was a different story entirely. Under Armour suited the US speed skating team that year, and were blamed for their less than gold medal (or bronze for that matter) performance throughout the games.

Since facing their 2014 Olympic-sized crisis, the state-of-the-art sportswear company has assessed their communication strategies and adapted them for potential issues moving forward. Prior to crisis, Under Armour is now dedicated to crafting anticipatory talking points, working closely with their team members to understand product details, as well as receiving product feedback directly from wear-test athletes.

Once a crisis has subsided, it’s essential to connect back with your team and reflect – just as Under Armour did. Talk about what went wrong, what went right and how these learnings can be implemented in future situations. This way, the topic of crisis communication becomes an ongoing conversation, evolving and growing with your company moving forward.

What all of these points boil down to is this: In terms of crisis, it doesn’t matter who you are, what your company does or what industry you do business in. Crisis is always a possibility. Take the time to think proactively and prepare now to best set yourself and team up for success down the road.

Written by Mary Garofalo

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