The word crisis immediately conjures catastrophe, but organizations can use such situations as a way to learn and grow.
“A crisis will often bring a ton of negativity to an organization and put you in an uncomfortable spotlight, but it can provide important opportunities, if handled well,” states Brian Keefer, VTLO’s director of new accounts and crisis communication expert.
Planning for potential crises is a regular part of doing business, according to Keefer, and organizations should have response plans in place. “You can’t predict every scenario, but you can have a defined approach that informs who and how you will handle any situation.”
Melissa Agnes, author of Crisis Ready, agrees. Agnes notes that the way leaders respond to a crisis is an opportunity to show how the organization lives its values.
So how can you make the best of a bad situation and actually burnish your brand? Consider the following five steps:
During a crisis, ensure there is constant and consistent communication between your organization and your stakeholders. People may interpret silence as defeat and an opportunity to make quick judgments. “Be sure to prepare those in your organization who interact with stakeholders,” emphasizes Keefer. Providing a toolkit with a situation briefing and key messages can help a manager talk with employees, a leader reassure investors, and a sales rep converse with a customer.
Listening to stakeholder feedback is key to sustaining every business, and even more important in a crisis. Tune in to how stakeholders are perceiving the crisis to understand the nuances and respond appropriately. “One of the best ways to deal with any crisis is to keep lines of communication open. Don’t go into lock-down mode,” says Keefer.
Agnes recommends issuing a clear, concise statement that leaves no room for misinterpretation. According to Keefer, your statement must acknowledge the crisis and offer a response that reflects its magnitude and the brand’s values. “If you’re at fault, taking responsibility for a mistake or wrongdoing makes a difference in how the public perceives the organization,” says Keefer. “If you’re not to blame, it still pays to recognize the situation. Knowing that a company is taking corrective measures matters to people.”
Crisis causes people to doubt your capabilities. While taking corrective action, reinforce the organization’s commitment to its long-term goals and enduring values. “Show stakeholders that you’re committed to resolving the crisis and using the experience as an opportunity to improve business processes,” says Keefer.
Organizations that build trust and goodwill as a regular part of their business strategy will weather a crisis better than those that don’t. Companies can maintain trust by demonstrating understanding and compassion of those affected by the crisis, and following through with its commitments to make reparations. “Stronger relationships built on trust may be the greatest silver lining of a crisis,” emphasizes Keefer. “When stakeholders have faith in how you handle a crisis, imagine how much trust they’ll have in your organization for day-to-day business.”
Actions taken when handling a crisis should not end once the situation is resolved. “It’s about being in a position to do exactly what’s right; take action, communicate simultaneously and effectively, and focus on relationship building,” says Agnes. “You can, as a result of dealing with a crisis, absolutely come out with deeper relationships and connections with those who matter most to your business.”
For more information on how Vitiello Communications Group (VTLO) can help your company with crisis communication, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 732-238-6622.