Shitstorms and negative criticism in the age of the comment function – in particular in social media – are ubiquitous and accelerated by round-the-clock and round-the-world communication. This requires a quick reaction in order to avoid potential damage to your reputation.
Whether it is redundancies, a disruption of operations or, for example, lack of transparency: a number of events can cause a crisis. However, every crisis has the potential to create opportunities as well as threats. How a company acts in the face of a crisis, whether it successfully overcomes it or whether it can even use it as a chance for progress depends on how well-prepared the company is. During a crisis, the image of a company – and, as a result, also its success – hangs by a thin thread. This is because within only few hours, a negative attitude of all stakeholders, such as employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders or the public, can lead to the destruction of trust in a product or company.
Appoint a crisis team. Each member of the team is involved in managing a potential crisis and prepares for their tasks well in advance. The range of tasks comprises, for instance, drawing up a Q&A sheet, devising checklists, setting up a reporting system, observing media coverage, writing a statement and determining a contact person for internal and external communication.
2. Immediate measure
First of all: keep calm. A rational approach is indispensable for successful communication during a crisis. First, get an overview of the current situation, ideally from a number of perspectives. Evaluate the mood in the crisis situation. Is it a gradually developing crisis, or is it sudden danger you are faced with? Escalation of a crisis usually progresses from loss of competitiveness to a veritable threat to existence.
In order to prevent weakening your employees’ trust in the company, internal communication is extremely important. Employees should regularly receive information – and before any other external stakeholders
The message should be communicated in a clear, simple and comprehensible way. Promises should only be made – and deadlines only be set – if they can be kept. It should be defined which communication channel is to be used in which kind of situation; the content to be communicated should be formulated so as to suit the respective channel.
A one-voice policy helps with regard to coordinating all communication in terms of content, formal aspects and timing. Sustaining the flow of information, carrying out regular monitoring and fostering relationships are useful measures in managing a crisis.
6. New start
Once the crisis has been overcome successfully, rebuilding trust is top priority – both internally and externally. Reflecting how a crisis was managed enables you to adapt processes, organisational structures and content, which ensures you are better prepared for any future crises.