An immediate response is crucial when managing a crisis

Article written by Marana Brand, Stone Consultant

It is unavoidable that at some point, your business will suffer a failure that disappoints customers. How your company reacts, explains, removes the pain, and takes accountability for its actions, signals how you think about customers and the collective heart of your organisation.

The rise of online and social media also means crises are now less predictable, can occur faster, and with a more drastic impact.

It is the critical hours after a crisis breaks that can significantly tarnish a company’s reputation in the eyes of its customers, suppliers, employees, stakeholders, media, and public at large, as well as its value. 

There are seven non-negotiables when it comes to managing a crisis successfully:

1. A crisis can strike any company anytime, anywhere. Advanced planning is the key to survival. A written plan should include specific actions that will be taken in the event of a crisis:

  • Identify where things could potentially go wrong and how you’d react to each.
  • Have the right tools and resources in place to identify when a potential crisis is brewing.
  • Have a system to very quickly identify what level of crisis you’re dealing with and who’s responsible for driving the response.
  • Have reporting processes in place so that you can keep the relevant people informed at all stages during a crisis.

As you develop your crisis management plan, seek advice from the experts. This include your leadership team, employees, customers, communications experts, investment bankers, exit planners, lawyers and financial managers.

It’s advisable to consider having a crisis management consultant handling potential crises. They have probably handled situations similar to yours before and can put that experience to work for you. A good consultant will also have good relationships with the media, government regulators and other role-players.

Lawyers may not be the best choice for leading a crisis management effort. That’s because they are hard-wired to avoid lawsuits. As such, they’re likely to shut down any communications efforts or tie them up with restrictions and legal language, when candor and clarity are called for.

2. Identify a spokesperson. One of the simplest and most effective methods for defusing a crisis is for the company spokesperson to immediately express genuine concern and apologise for any disruptions, damage or loss of life.

It is never advisable to respond to questions with “no comment”. Even if it is something as simplistic as that you are still investigating the matter or gathering information, do not ignore all questions.

During a crisis, any news vacuum will be filled with rumours and speculation (usually negative), especially on social media. The key to an effective statement is, however, to provide only what you know to be factual, not to speculate or shade the truth.

3. Being as open and transparent as possible – through all communications channels – can help stop rumours and defuse a potential media frenzy.

4. Maintaining an informed workforce helps ensure that business continues to flow as smoothly as possible. It also minimises the internal rumour mill that may lead to employees posting false reports on social media.

5. Communicate with customers and suppliers. You do not want customers and suppliers to learn about your crisis through the media. Information on any crisis should come from you first.

6. It is better to over-communicate than to allow rumours to fill the void. Issue summary statements, updated action plans and new developments as early and as often as possible.

7. Social media is one of the most important channels of communication. Be sure to establish a social media team to monitor, post and react to social media activity throughout the crisis.

* Sources: This article was compiled using information from various websites including: inc.com, bizcommunity.com and bernsteincrisismanagement.com