Crisis Communication: First Steps

Jan 9, 2024 | Public Relations

In Crisis Mode? Here’s what you do first.

PR is almost always synonymous with positive attention and buzz. Until it isn’t. And a brand is in the hot seat with its reputation on the line and integrity in question. You may not realize it then (or ignoring it on purpose to will it away) but your business is in crisis mode. You need a crisis communications plan.

A crisis can be minor (your website is down) or major (loss of life is involved) but the first steps in any scenario are the same. Because if not handled well and quickly, any issue can escalate out of control. Regaining consumer trust and confidence is MUCH harder to repair after the fact. Use the crisis to step up, take control and show strength in the moment.

Here are the steps to take, in order:

1. Get the Facts

Although it may sound simple, the answers to Who, What, When, Why and Where will give you the foundation for creating your response strategy.

2. Determine impact.

After gathering all the facts, determine if the situation fits the definition of a crisis – will someone or something be harmed?

3. Call a time-out.

When a crisis hits, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and inadvertently convey a sense of chaos. Calling a time-out is sometimes necessary to ensure the information you are providing is as accurate as it is timely. It requires a statement in the form of asking media for the courtesy of more time to ensure that they get the information they need.

4. Commit to a schedule.

You must be willing to also offer specific times when more information will be available. For example: “In light of the recent events, our team requests a brief opportunity to gather the appropriate information. We will have more to share by [date/time].” This request does two things: 1) It allows your audiences to know that you acknowledge the issue at hand and are working to resolve it and 2) It gives you until that time to develop additional information, build internal consensus on a response strategy, and prove your desire to remain transparent.

5. Stick to the schedule.

You must stick to whatever time frame you provide. If you do, that could be what people report as so-called progress.

6. Monitor and monitor.

Remember, while you build a response, you should continue to have your staff or team monitoring online chatter, blogs, and social media channels. Update and release information on all channels, so it is visible.

7. Issue a response.

Provide a public statement to press, put in on your website and add to your social channels. Get it public and out there and quickly. Don’t forget internal audiences. Misinformation can spread just as fast, if not faster, among employees and partners. Keep it simple and factually accurate and pledge to provide more detail soon.

Crisis Communication: Don’t Forget the Communication

The common theme here is to communicate. That’s why we call it crisis communications. Be transparent and honest with what you know and commit to continue to do that. This gives your business space to find a solution to the problem, with a level head. The number one mistake is working frantically to solve the problem before people notice. You must assume people have noticed. Acknowledge and own it. Then you can fix it.

Still think you could use a hand with your crisis communication plan? Contact Crisis Communications Experts

About the author:

Korenna Wilson, Knoodle Director of PR & Content, has nearly 20 years of experience in Public Relations, with a majority of which spent in Washington, DC in crisis communications, helping clients preserve their brand reputation and emerge from crisis unscathed.