Ten Tips for Crisis Communicators

  1. Schedule your first crisis communications scenario planning session
    1. Invite business leaders from various sections of the organization
    2. Develop your scenarios, which you will disseminate prior to the planning session
    3. Establish your decision points. When you meet, discuss how each decision will be handled, formalize all roles and responsibilities and identify problem areas.
    4. Because scenarios are fictional events, they allow us to identify organizational and communication problems without pointing fingers. 
  2. Become a champion of trust
    1. Trust is your doorway to customer-centric messaging. It is also your doorway for employee-centric messaging. Trust isn’t a concept to be understood on its own, rather it’s a mechanism to redirecting focus back to the human concerns of our customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
    2. Helpful reading
      1. “In No One We Trust” by Joseph Stiglitz, NY Times
      2. Edelman Trust Barometer
      3. “Rethinking Trust” by Roderick Kramer
      4. Pew Research: “Public Trust in Government from 1958-2014” 
  3. Identify your communication channels for Push/Pull/Engage crisis communications.
    In a crisis, communicators must push out urgent messages, enable employees to pull information through unconventional channels, and support at least one channel that allows employees at all levels to connect with senior leaders.

    1. PUSH communications constitute a standard crisis communications plan. These are urgent messages to stakeholders, including the press.
    2. PULL communications support unconventional work patterns that employees develop to solve immediate needs.
    3. ENGAGE communications are frequently omitted from a crisis communications strategy, although they are essential for maintaining trust. 
  4. Create a tool for assessing risk based on potential audience outrage
    1. This tool should include simple questions, such as:
      1. Did we cause the change?
      2. How will people perceive the change?
      3. Will it cause fear or merely inconvenience?
      4. Do regulatory, environmental, or market forces complicate customers’ perceptions?
    2. This quick assessment will help you anticipate risks and develop smart messages. 
  5. Identify opportunities for brand goodwill
    1. Review key aspects of your business from the standpoint of a massive crisis, then identify opportunities to strengthen brand goodwill.
    2. Examine your supply chain, any at-risk populations living near your headquarters, and the unique aspects of your industry and products.
    3. During Hurricane Sandy, Verizon and AT&T deployed trucks to devastated areas, helping customer recharge phones and use computers. Customers, therefore, engaged directly with these brands at a time of poignant need. 
  6. Determine your incident-specific guidance – what unique types of crisis events should your organization prepare for?
    1. Onsite violence/active shooter
    2. Natural disaster
    3. Pandmic 
  7. Define the consultative skills that support your area of expertise (crisis management). Ensure that your team strengthens core competencies and general knowledge about crises and risk communications. 
  8. Improve your team’s awareness and knowledge of the leading experts, such as:
    1. Kate Starbird, human-centered design and crisis modeling
    2. Peter Sandman, one of the most widely recognized experts in crisis communications.
    3. Roderick Kramer, a recognized expert in organizational trust. 
  9. Watch the movie “The 33”
    1. This movie tells the story of one of the greatest crisis leaders in history. The Chilean government and business collaborated to establish a leadership approach that saved the lives of 33 miners who were buried miles underground for 69 days.
    2. Use this film ignite essential discussions about leadership and culture within your organization.
    3. Distribute the Harvard business review article: “Leadership Lessons from the Chilean Mine Rescue
    4. Read my comparison of leadership and culture during the BP Oil Spill and the Chilean Mine Rescue. 
  10. Plan to “Fortify Trust in a Crisis”
    1. Follow the specific steps in this article I wrote for Continuity Magazine, which details how organizations can fortify trust amidst turmoil.

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