The fact is that some chief executives are brilliant organizational leaders but not very effective in-person communicators. The decision about who should speak is made after a crisis breaks — but the pool of potential spokespersons should be identified and trained in advance. Not only are spokespersons needed for media communications, but for all types and forms of communications, internal and external.
This includes on-camera, at a public meeting, at employee meetings, etc. Two typical quotes from well-intentioned executives summarize the reason why your spokespersons should receive professional training in how to speak to the media:.
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In the second case, most executives who have attended a hostile public hearing have gone home wishing they had been wearing a pair of Depends. All stakeholders, internal and external, are just as capable of misunderstanding or misinterpreting information about your organization as the media. Spokesperson training teaches you to be prepared, to be ready to respond in a way that optimizes the response of all stakeholders. Remember when the only way to reach someone quickly was by a single phone or fax number, assuming they were there to receive either?
Today, we need to have — immediately at hand — the means to reach our internal and external stakeholders using multiple modalities. Many of us have several phone numbers, more than one email address, and can receive SMS text messages or faxes. Instant Messenger programs, either public or proprietary, are also very popular for business and personal use. We can even send audio and video messages via email. And then, of course, there is social media. It is absolutely essential, pre-crisis, to establish notification systems that will allow you to rapidly reach your stakeholders using multiple modalities.
The Virginia Tech campus shooting catastrophe, where email was the sole means of alerting students initially, proves that using any single modality can make a crisis worse. Some of us may be on email constantly, others not so.
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Some of us receive our cellphone calls or messages quickly, some not. If you use more than one modality to reach your stakeholders, the chances are much greater that the message will go through. Fortunately, today there is technology — offered by multiple vendors for rent or purchase — that can be set up to automatically start contacting all stakeholders in your pre-established database and keep trying to reach them until they confirm e. Technology you can trigger with a single call or email. Likewise, monitoring feedback from all stakeholders during a crisis situation allows you to accurately adapt your strategy and tactics.
Both require monitoring systems be established in advance. For traditional and social media, Google Alerts are the no-cost favorite, but there are also free social media tracking apps such as Hootsuite. There a variety of paid monitoring services that provide not only monitoring, but also the ability to report results in a number of formats.
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Monitoring other stakeholders means training personnel who have front-line contact with stakeholders e. Who are the internal and external stakeholders that matter to your organization?
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I consider employees to be your most important audience, because every employee is a PR representative and crisis manager for your organization whether you want them to be or not! Furthermore, a hastily created crisis communications strategy and team are never as efficient as those planned and rehearsed in advance.
With holding statements available as a starting point, the Crisis Communications Team must continue developing the crisis-specific messages required for any given situation. The team already knows, categorically, what type of information its stakeholders are looking for. What should those stakeholders know about this crisis? Keep it simple. Have no more than three main messages that go to all stakeholders and, as necessary, some audience-specific messages for individual groups of stakeholders.
A formal analysis of what was done right, what was done wrong, what could be done better next time and how to improve various elements of crisis preparedness is another must-do activity for any Crisis Communications Team. I have developed a formal process for accomplishing this, but even a solid in-house brainstorming session can do the job.
Hopefully, that type of ostrich emulation is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Yet I know when all is said and done, thousands of organizations hit by natural and man-made disasters will have suffered far more damage than would have occurred with a fully developed crisis communications plan in place. Even the best crisis management professional is playing catch up — with more damage occurring all the time — when the organization has no crisis communications infrastructure already in place.
Certainly, client demand for advance preparation has increased dramatically in the past decade, at least for my consultancy. But I fear there is, in fact, little change in what I have said in the past — that 95 percent of American organizations remain either completely unprepared or significantly under-prepared for crises. And my colleagues overseas report little better, and sometimes worse, statistics.
Interested on talking to a crisis management expert now? Use the form below to get in touch. I find your article so clearly structured and easy to understand, and so interesting and down-to-earth, that I would really love to use it as a teaching material, fully citing the source.
Pingback: Why response is the ultimate goal of commmunication? Pingback: 8 Steps for Crisis Communications jalyn sanders. Pingback: 8 Steps for Crisis Communications. Pingback: PBL Trigger 6 mytranlearningdiaries. Pingback: Crisis Communication Public Relations is…. Part of a series on The Great Recession. Major aspects. Causes of the European debt crisis Causes of the United States housing bubble Credit rating agencies and the subprime crisis Government policies and the subprime mortgage crisis.
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