The Internet is littered with scary articles like “Top Ten Worst PR Mistakes” or “Five Examples of How NOT to Handle Crisis Communication”. While creating a crisis plan can be a horror of its own, it is necessary to ensure a business is prepared for unexpected and undesirable events.
A crisis can vary with different industries or business sizes, but no matter what, when things go wrong, people want to hear first-hand from the organization (or individuals responsible) about what happened and how the problem is being solved.
Some organizations argue that a crisis plan is unnecessary and that an emergency or unexpected event is unlikely to occur under their watch. At a time with instant sharing online and on social media, a crisis is not a matter of if, but when and what kind.
If that’s not enough to spook an organization into creating a crisis plan, read the other reasons below.
Once a crisis hits, it can take up to 21 hours to issue a meaningful, approved message to manage the issue.
In a crisis, a company doesn’t have hours or days, only minutes to respond as over 30 percent of crises spread internationally within one hour.
A plan on the back burner with pre-approved messages and holding statements can keep the crisis from escalating.
A company’s value is directly related to its reputation. Any hit to a brand’s reputation can cost the company money due to sales, stock prices, or other expenses required to manage the crisis like cleanup costs, legal fees, etc. An effective plan can manage the crisis and help stock prices or sales revenue rebound.
In minutes, the reputation of a one-hundred-year-old brand can be ruined, if stakeholders perceive that an organization is not handling the issue. Social media plays a major role in brand equity, as stakeholders often learn of crises through social media conversations that may not include the organization’s official statements.
Having a plan ready to deploy, puts the company’s official message and strategy in front of stakeholders as quickly as possible to retain brand equity.
Preparation and Management
It may seem obvious, but a company can’t prepare for and manage a crisis simultaneously. An effective plan requires many moving parts that can’t be done in real-time.
Creating a toolkit, identifying spokespersons and coaching through interviews, establishing media monitoring, social media management and communicating with stakeholders are all things that cannot be done as a crisis is unfolding. Developing a plan in advance also allows for an organization to be “tried and tested” for success.
In many instances, it’s not the crisis itself that is the problem, but the way the crisis was handled.
Some companies, like BP’s oil crisis, remain infamous for their crisis management. Others, like Southwest Airlines, demonstrated how an effective plan can be swiftly deployed to manage a crisis.
In 2018, Southwest Airlines had a plane that had a deadly engine explosion mid-flight en-route from LaGuardia to Dallas Love Field, resulting in an emergency landing in Philadelphia. After the dust settled, Southwest Airlines was heralded for the actions of their crew, demonstrating how a crisis should be handled.