A crisis can be unavoidable, but being unprepared for a crisis is not. At Pagefield we pride ourselves on being able to ‘look around corners’ for clients. But how do you prepare for a crisis before it happens, and manage it when it arrives?
What is crisis management?
‘Crisis Management’ is the process by which individuals, organisations, or governments respond to the impact of an unexpected and potentially damaging event or situation that threatens their reputation. Agencies like Pagefield offer crisis communications support to clients to ensure they’re prepared to deal with issues which could have the potential to tarnish their brand, and we’re also there to support them when a crisis breaks.
Why is crisis management crucial?
Crisis management is crucial to help organisations or individuals deal with situations that could cause significant damage to their reputations. Preparing ahead of time for a crisis ensures that teams can take the right steps to quickly control the situation and ensure that a personal, organisational or business reputation is damaged as little as possible.
What does crisis communications look like?
When dealing with a crisis, it is crucial to think about how the situation will affect the reputation of an organisation or individual with key stakeholders, such as investors or the public.
Crisis management activity involves significant planning around the Public Relations (PR) and Public Affairs (PA) elements of a response, as well as developing a social media strategy. This includes drafting messaging for an organisation or individual to use when speaking with different stakeholders, and helping an organisation prioritise which stakeholders it needs to speak to the most.
From a PR perspective, crisis management includes the close monitoring of stories written by key media figures, and engagement with journalists, to ensure an organisation’s position is made as clear as possible in news media. This could also include rebutting inaccurate reports.
Crisis management from a PA perspective can also include engaging with relevant politicians to keep them up to date on an emerging situation, and to manage any political concerns about the fallout of a crisis.
From a digital perspective, social media can be used as a tool to understand what it is about a particular crisis that people are most interested in and to monitor reactions to the crisis in real time. An organisation’s public statements should be updated on social media channels when appropriate to reflect new and changing key messages of which stakeholders need to be aware, and social media posts should be used to deal with concerns in real time. A crisis is also likely to break on social media so it is important to ensure robust monitoring of brand names and keywords is in place in advance so the organisation or individual in question is aware in real time of any spikes in mentions.
Who needs crisis management?
Crisis management is vital for all organisations, individuals, and industries because you never know when a crisis could begin. That means businesses, charities, government departments, political parties, and high-profile individuals.
How do you prepare?
Crisis management doesn’t only kick into gear after the event. It is crucial that individuals and organisations are prepared for any eventuality so crises can be responded to strategically and at pace.
This should include developing an extensive crisis management document which has clear procedures, structures and plans for effectively dealing with any crisis once it emerges.
How Pagefield can support with Crisis Management:
Pagefield’s approach to planning for, responding to, and rebuilding from a crisis is based on a critical understanding of how our clients work, what issues may occur, and how impactful they could be. To do this, we typically adopt a three-phased approach:
Phase 1 – Identifying Risks
The first step is to identify crisis scenarios by developing a communications-focused risk assessment and using this to prioritise the types of potential crisis. A risk ‘heat map’ is then created, comparing these potential crises against the likelihood of them occurring to identify the most critical challenges which require forward planning and preparation.
Phase 2 – Crisis communications procedures and scenario planning
Phase 2 begins with a thorough audit of an individual or organisation’s existing procedures to understand how they would respond in a moment of crisis, who has sign-off authority, and at what stage issues are escalated to the senior team. We use this audit’s results to designate a Crisis Response Team (CRT) within the organisation which has ultimate responsibility for managing the communications around the crisis.
This consists of members of senior management, the communications team, the legal team, the HR team, as well as at least one member of the Pagefield team. We would also seek to develop specific crisis response plans for the most critical challenges identified.
This would include draft key messages, a media Q&A, draft social media posts and internal and external stakeholder engagement plans to prepare for every likely scenario. By doing this, we will ensure that the business or individual is prepared to respond in a timely and effective manner to those stakeholders who matter most.
Phase 3 – Stress-testing the response
The final phase includes a crisis-specific media training session which will be used to prepare an organisation’s key spokespeople to manage either a potentially hostile journalist or a news conference.
Our full-time in-house team boasts former journalists and national newspaper editors who use their expertise to train clients. In these sessions we focus on preparing an organisation’s senior leadership members on techniques for managing unsympathetic or hostile questioning, delivering statements to a press conference, bridging techniques, key message delivery and recorded mock interviews for TV.
A proactive approach to crisis management is your best defence. The future is unpredictable but your preparation doesn’t have to be.
At Pagefield, we understand the importance of being prepared for a crisis – both on an individual and organisational scale. We have helped clients, past and present, navigate a safe passage through complex internal, media and policy issues. If you want to talk to us about how we can help your organisation improve its crisis management and communications strategy, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.