The recent coronavirus pandemic reminds us that at any given time, organizations, communities, states and even countries can be faced with a crisis that requires effective communications with a strategic plan. Today seemed like a good time to dust off a past guest blog post from Nancy Valent of NMV Strategies on crisis communication.
Your phone rings.
It’s a CNN reporter wanting to know why your facility had an explosion, which injured five of your employees.
What is your response?
Probably the first reaction you have is to say: “No comment.” It seems harmless and a good safety net to buy you some time. In reality, your “no comment” starts a snowball reaction of assumptions that you are trying to hide something or go on the defensive.
Spokespeople who use this phrase are subliminally communicating that they are not being proactive or stepping out to really tell the truth. This type of response drives both consumers and business clients away and starts to degrade your brand and corporate identity faster than just saying in a very truthful tone: “I will get back to you in an hour with the facts and information, which I can confirm.”
Too many large, medium and even small manufacturing businesses operate under the philosophy that a company crisis will never happen to them. But, if it does it won’t get media attention and somehow they will ultimately handle it. If you research any of the past company crises that get national attention and talk to the manufacturing operations people who have lived through it, they will tell you everyone should be prepared for the sudden and the smoldering crisis…it can happen to you.
Preparation is relatively easy if you have created a plan before a crisis hits. Here are some questions to ask the management team and/or your communications department:
- If we had a crisis, who would be the spokesperson?
- How would we communicate with our employees and our customers?
- What are three key message points we would want to share about the history or background of our company to illustrate that we were good corporate citizens in safety and other aspects of business?
- Do we have a hard copy of key phone numbers for organizations and people who would need to be contacted? (Having it your smart phone doesn’t count if it was left behind on your desk in the burning building.)
- Do you have a good relationship with one reporter in the local media who knows your company and can accurately report the facts?
Manufacturing companies have Risk Management Plans and Emergency Preparedness Plans, which address business continuity, etc. In most cases, these plans usually do not go the extra mile to detail all the nuances of effective internal and external communications when a crisis hits.
Being proactive and prepared with a Crisis Communications Plan also works in tandem with these plans so that you have designated teams handling your target audiences; be it the communications with the media, your customers/clients, shareholders, employees and even your competition.
Knowing how to communicate effectively while a crisis is occurring and knowing how to handle your emotions on-camera are skills that can be developed before a crisis hits. Being prepared helps to safeguard your brand and positioning of your company. It is something to think about doing for your company sooner than later.
Nancy has experience in the communications handling of plant explosions, chemical spills, gas leaks, company espionage and disgruntled employees. Her background in media relations with the national and international press is well established, having directed media opportunities throughout the United States and Latin America. Visit nmvstrategies.com for more information.