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Why Your Business Needs a Crisis Communications Strategy

Fox Communications’ seven step plan

In times of uncertainty, it is clearer than ever that each and every brand is vulnerable to crisis. Stepping up to the role of leadership when necessary is vitally important and developing a crisis communications plan should be part of every public relations strategy. 

As the name suggests, a crisis communication plan is an outlined strategy surrounding how to communicate with employees, clients, and customers during a difficult situation that impacts a business in a significant way.  From a global Coronavirus pandemic, to a stock market crash, political unrest, an on-site tragedy, or spurious allegations against your business, a plan of action is necessary in order to mitigate financial and reputational risk. It’s imperative that if and when a crisis arises, organisations are able to respond quickly and confidently, so that their communication throughout the process is seamless.

Crisis and reputation management continues to evolve as the state of journalism is rapidly changing. The way we consume news and the use of citizen journalism means that news is now reported 24-hours a day, instantaneously – through TV, radio, social media, instant news apps etc.

Here are some steps you should take, to prepare for ‘before, during and after’ an incident.  Every company is different, and plans may vary, but taken from our experience in luxury travel PR, there are many core factors which are essential.

Crisis Communications Messaging

Ensure your brand story, key messages and facts are up to date, so that they can be shared quickly. Any messaging should still be aligned to your brand’s core values.

Create Your Crisis Communications Team

This can vary, but it usually includes senior executives, heads of divisions, your PR agency and marketing team.

Anticipate Crisis

Once you have a team, bring them together to plan and anticipate different crises scenarios, as well as assigning everyone with roles and responsibilities.

Identify a Spokesperson

It tends often be the CEO, but it is also worth having a team of spokespeople ready, dependent on the incident and who is also right to talk to media. Ensure that your spokespeople are media trained – they need to be prepared and ready to respond.

Listening Tools

Set up listening tools to monitor all channels for mentions of your brand, so negative mentions are be seen and dealt with in real time.

Develop Holding Statements

An effective holding statement will buy an organisation some crucial time until it is able to get a better understanding of what has happened and issue something more detailed. It will also help prevent the spread of rumour and speculation. 

While it will be beneficial to include as much information as you can, some effective holding statements just acknowledge that something has gone wrong. Holdings statements should include the following: Empathy, Action, Reassurance and Details.

Create your PR Crisis Communications Plan

This needs to includes the crisis team’s roles and responsibilities, as well as contact details, a checklist, a chain of command and approval process, updated brand fact and messaging and draft statements. It may also include risk assessment charts, financial assessment charts, emergency response plans, and checklists.

Unless you’re a large organisation with extensive budget and resources, it may be challenging to create thorough and actionable Crisis Communication Plans for every eventuality. But it is best practice to have a general overview of how your business would and should react no matter challenges you encounter.  

Above all else – remember:

– Tell it all, tell it fast, tell the truth
– Establish and control the facts
– Harness your own channels of communication
– Tone is important: show your human side, particularly for interviews

Remember, every brand faces crises and that part remains out of your control. Ultimately, however, what people remember is not so much the ‘what’ that happened, but the way it was handled afterwards.

For further information on crisis communications, please contact the Fox Communications team on london@foxcomms.com

Published 18th May 2020

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