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First things first... what is a crisis in its truest sense?
A crisis is an event or series of events that threatens your long-term reputation or ability to operate. It can come out of the blue or it may be a serious issue that spirals into a much graver situation. Crises and issues can often be conflated, which may lead to a sense of misplaced comfort amongst communications teams. They may feel comfortable dealing with issues and so think they are fully prepared to deal with a full-on crisis.
Are you really prepared for a category red crisis?
This could be an event that unfolds so quickly it may be difficult to keep control and regain the initiative. An event which sees internal and external stakeholders requesting and sharing information in a way that may lead to confusion. A highly stressful event where what happens next is difficult to predict and could have a costly impact in terms of resources, market share and reputation.
To determine how prepared you are, imagine your worst-case scenario. What keeps you up at night? Then ask yourself, would you, your communications team and your senior management be able to stick to the best practice principles of crisis management?
This means being able to balance operational decision-making with reputational considerations.
Determining your reputational objectives as a team from the outset
Ensuring your words and actions are consistently designed to protect and ideally enhance your reputation
Taking control of the situation quickly and communicating to the audiences that matter through the right channels.
Being transparent, sticking to the facts and delivering the right messages. In a crisis, messaging is often about expressing concern for those involved and demonstrating that you are throwing everything you have at the situation. However, much of this you can only communicate if the operational actions allow you to do so.
How do you get yourself prepared to manage a crisis?
Very broadly, you should:
Build goodwill amongst key audiences to help insulate the business should a crisis hit
Ensure there’s an understanding amongst the senior management and business units, that reputation should be placed at the heart of any crisis response
Prepare to engage by knowing who to talk to, when to talk to them and how to talk to them
Create muscle memory. So, ensure everyone who could be involved in the response understands escalation and call out procedures, as well as their role and that of others. Make this happen through robust and tailored plans, which should be embedded and tested
The LEWIS guide to reputation management in a crisis provides more detail on best practice preparedness.
But how far advanced are you in your preparations? How confident you could come out of a crisis with reputation intact or strengthened?
To compare against the best practice set out in the guide, then check out our benchmarking tool to give yourself a true sense of where you are now and what may be required to ensure you are as prepared as possible.