When it comes to public relations nightmares it is best to get out ahead and be proactive as opposed to reactionary. Our team creates a powerful and personalized plan for our clients as an anticipatory step. We then take this one step further and design a communications strategy to manage any type of concerns. At NLSE we can also implement prearranged plans at the time of a crisis and manage the rebuilding of your brand.
With our extensive range of lawyers, agents, and communication professionals on your side, you can be sure that we understand your needs, which include the legal and non-legal issues associated with the crisis, as well as your potential exposure to any liability. Our team understands what can and cannot be disclosed during a crisis situation.
Prevention involves seeking to reduce known risks that could lead to a crisis. This is part of an organization’s risk management program. Preparation involves creating the crisis management plan, selecting and training the crisis management team, and conducting exercises to test the crisis management plan and crisis management team. Both Barton (2001) and Coombs (2006) document that organizations are better able to handle crises when they (1) have a crisis management plan that is updated at least annually, (2) have a designated crisis management team, (3) conduct exercises to test the plans and teams at least annually, and (4) pre-draft some crisis messages. Table 1 lists the Crisis Preparation Best Practices. The planning and preparation allow crisis teams to react faster and to make more effective decisions. Refer to Barton’s (2001) Crisis in Organizations II or Coombs’ (2006) Code Red in the Boardroom for more information on these four lessons.
Table 1: Crisis Preparation Best Practices
- Have a crisis management plan and update it at least annually.
- Have a designate crisis management team that is properly trained.
- Conduct exercise at least annually to test the crisis management plan and team.
- Pre-draft select crisis management messages including content for dark web sites and templates for crisis statements. Have the legal department review and pre-approve these messages.
The crisis response is what management does and says after the crisis hits. Public relations plays a critical role in the crisis response by helping to develop the messages that are sent to various publics. A great deal of research has examined the crisis response. That research has been divided into two sections: (1) the initial crisis response and (2) reputation repair and behavioral intentions.
In the post-crisis phase, the organization is returning to business as usual. The crisis is no longer the focal point of management’s attention but still requires some attention. As noted earlier, reputation repair may be continued or initiated during this phase. There is important follow-up communication that is required. First, crisis managers often promise to provide additional information during the crisis phase. The crisis managers must deliver on those informational promises or risk losing the trust of publics wanting the information. Second, the organization needs to release updates on the recovery process, corrective actions, and/or investigations of the crisis. The amount of follow-up communication required depends on the amount of information promised during the crisis and the length of time it takes to complete the recovery process. If you promised a reporter a damage estimate, for example, be sure to deliver that estimate when it is ready. West Pharmaceuticals provided recovery updates for over a year because that is how long it took to build a new facility to replace the one destroyed in an explosion. As Dowling (2003), the Corporate Leadership Counsel (2003), and the Business Roundtable (2002) observe, Intranets are an excellent way to keep employees updated, if the employees have ways to access the site. Coombs (2007a) reports how mass notification systems can be used as well to deliver update messages to employees and other publics via phones, text messages, voice messages, and e-mail. Personal e-mails and phone calls can be used too.Crisis managers agree that a crisis should be a learning experience. The crisis management effort needs to be evaluated to see what is working and what needs improvement. The same holds true for exercises. Coombs (2006) recommends every crisis management exercise be carefully dissected as a learning experience. The organization should seek ways to improve prevention, preparation, and/or the response. As most books on crisis management note, those lessons are then integrated into the pre-crisis and crisis response phases. That is how management learns and improves its crisis management process. Table 8 lists the Post-Crisis Phase Best Practices.
Table 8: Post-Crisis Phase Best Practices
- Deliver all information promised to stakeholders as soon as that information is known.
- Keep stakeholders updated on the progression of recovery efforts including any corrective measures being taken and the progress of investigations.
- Analyze the crisis management effort for lessons and integrate those lessons in to the organization’s crisis management system.