What is Crisis Communication And Why Is It Important?

Every business is susceptible to a crisis, with companies of all sizes and in all industries facing a growing number of threats. In an age where the majority of people are online and news spreads like wildfire, it’s crucial for organisations to have a crisis communication strategy that can be activated in a challenging situation. Rapid response is key, so let’s find out more about crisis management and how a communications agency can help you to be prepared.

What is Crisis Communication?

Crisis communication allows a business to protect its reputation when a crisis or business disruption strikes. Strong, clear communication makes it easier for companies to respond to business threats quickly and handle public scrutiny confidently. Crisis communication and crisis management often get used interchangeably. But the reality is that crisis communication is just one part of a detailed crisis management strategy. While crisis management covers everything from pre-crisis planning to post-crisis recovery, crisis communication is about relaying information to relevant parties that protects and defends an organisation’s reputation. What you do and don’t say can shape the future of your company and impact recovery, which is why crisis communication is so important. Never walk into a situation blind – always have a plan.

Crisis communication typically involves the collaboration of multiple internal teams including corporate communications, public relations, social media and legal. It also targets various channels including social media, web and email. Many looking for reliable crisis communication also work with a reputable communications agency who can handle things calmly, diligently and with your best interests in mind.

The Ever-Growing Importance of Crisis Communication in 2024

From Facebook to Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) to TikTok, news can travel at a phenomenal rate, putting your reputation at risk in seconds. People don’t hold back online. So any company could find themselves at the heart of a digital storm. This makes crisis communication even more important for 2024 and beyond. 80% of executives believe it’s never been more important to build resilience in their organisations. Yet half don’t feel prepared to handle a crisis.

What’s particularly worrying is that fake news can spread much faster on social media than true reporting. This is fuelled by frequent, habitual social media users forwarding six times more fake news than occasional or new users. So a company might be squeaky clean and still have to activate crisis management.

To emphasise the fragility of a brand’s reputation online, check out the story from last year which followed a tourist submersible that went missing on its way to see the Titanic wreckage. The rescue mission failed and on June 25th, a video on TikTok broadcasted so-called screams of passengers. In just 10 days, the video had 4.9 million views. The audio was not real at all, however. In fact it was from the video game series Five Nights at Freddy’s. But the TikTok went viral fast and spread a lot further than the fact-checked truth. So, in this modern world, you must be ready to communicate in any type of crisis.

What Is a Crisis?

When it comes to crisis communication and crisis management, there are many different types of crises to consider. These include:

  • External crises. These are largely outside a company’s control. Examples include geopolitical tensions, wars that impact brand supply chains and pricing and extreme weather conditions.
  • Security threats. This could be a physical threat to the company or its employees or a threat to a company’s data. A violation of company security policies and theft of information can lead to a social media storm and a reputation crisis.
  • Customer complaints. In an age of reviews and social interaction, the smallest customer complaint could blow up online. Knowing how to handle backlash from consumers through communication is a must. The same applies to customer incidents including personal damage or injury.
  • Contradictory brand messages. Try to avoid a self-inflicted crisis by sticking to your policies. If you claim to be a sustainable, environmentally-friendly brand, for instance, don’t get caught carrying out non-sustainable activities.
  • Product recalls. If product defects are discovered that could hinder performance or harm consumers, this is a potential PR disaster and a legal minefield. This will require strong communication and a plan that helps you ride the crisis wave from panic and nervousness to slow recovery and back to normality (hopefully).

The Dos and Don’ts of Crisis Communication

Whether the crisis is one that threatens public safety or undermines public confidence, each crisis must be dealt with wisely. Here are the dos and don’ts of crisis communication.

Do – Know Where You Stand

Is the crisis hearsay or are you in the wrong? Have you messed up legally or is it just a case of settling people who took a post or comment wrong? Understand the seriousness of the crisis before you do anything.

Do – Implement your Plan

Developing an effective plan will prevent you from digging a deeper hole for your organisation. When a crisis hits, this plan should be activated. Always know who is speaking on the record and make sure that person has all relevant information at his/her disposal. Know what needs to happen if any content requires legal sign-off. Nothing should be a guessing game.

Do – Communicate with ALL Audiences

Communicating with your internal team is a must as all employees, collaborators, vendors and investors must be on the same page. You should then communicate externally, informing the general public through the media and any relevant social channels. This is particularly important if the crisis involves an immediate threat to the public. For example, if food on the shelves is found to be contaminated.

 Do – Correct any Inaccurate Information FAST

If any inaccurate information is released, correct it as fast as possible. Updating your socials in real-time with crisis updates is a must as it’ll show you’re on-the-ball and working with your consumers in mind. During a crisis where information keeps changing, make sure your organisation is abreast with updates from reputable information sources so that you can update your communication accordingly. Don’t take your foot off the gas.

Do – Control Your Story

During a crisis, always control your own story and don’t let anyone else lead the way. Break your own news, drive the information first-hand and become the go-to site for public information. Try doing the following:

  • Defining the crisis in your own words and on your own terms
  • State what you know and what you’re doing about it as an organisation
  • Let it be known who you’re working with to fix the problem
  • Direct worried consumers to a particular communication stream
  • Promise to update and make your apologies clear
  • Come across genuine and approach the matter sensitively

 Do – Point to the Positives

While you don’t want to shy away from the issue, try to focus on the positive. You could update consumers with key messages such as ‘The supply of faulty products has been immediately stopped.’ The way you word things will make a huge difference, so you might want to include certain words and phrases in your crisis communication strategy.

Do – Use Social Listening Tools

Use social listening tools to follow and document brand sentiment during a crisis. See what people are saying and gather common misconceptions or rumours so that you can create a relevant statement at an appropriate time.

Don’t – Remain Silent

Staying quiet when you’re surrounded by scandal is the worst thing you can do. While a crisis can be confusing and fast-moving, releasing a legally compliant statement is what is needed. Don’t be afraid to challenge the media if you need to. If reports are wrong or unfair, be sure to set the truth straight factually and calmly. Never lose your temper or cool.

Don’t – Say More Than You Need To

Agree what needs to be said and stick to that information. Saying more than you intended to make public could land you in hot water. Don’t let the phrasing of a reporter’s question trap you. Instead, respond to the question the way you would have wanted it asked. Politicians are good at this. Be sure not to get into arguments online either. Anything you say online could be used as potential evidence in court, so avoid getting into back and fourths with followers. It’s also a good idea to direct communication away from public channels. Provide followers with a phone number, email address or live chat they can use if worried.

A communication agency can help you effectively plan for crisis situations. It can also draft responses, distribute messaging across social media and PR, and write speeches and statements for spokespeople in your organisation. For effective crisis communication, speak to the expert team at Contentworks Agency. We work with small and large companies across challenging sectors including finance to handle your communication seamlessly.

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