Although most corporate leaders and crisis PR pros use words like “disaster,” “panic” and “ruin” to describe their crisis ordeals, new research from Edinburgh-based crisis communications and PR firm The Reputation People offers another word you should consider associating with your experience—“opportunity.”
A corporate crisis has become a case of “when, not if.” According to statistics from the PwC Global Crisis 2019 survey, 69 percent of business leaders have experienced a corporate crisis in the last 5 years—and a staggering 95 percent expect to face one in the near future.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom
Behind every corporate crisis is a significant opportunity to drive brand awareness and improve your market position. In fact, The Reputation People encourages you to be a “crisis optimist.”
“Generally speaking, the public are very forgiving when something goes wrong, especially if it isn’t your fault,” said Heather Astbury, managing director and co-founder of The Reputation People, in a news release. “But what they won’t forgive is poor communication—because that is entirely under your control.”
When a corporate crisis turns viral, we have all seen how a well-managed communications plan can quickly turn a negative situation into one that is positive. Rapid response, utmost honesty and consistent statements all play a part in the successful crisis communications we see in the media.
Remember that not all crises are subject to a media frenzy or are in fact newsworthy
Many smaller businesses overlook the need for a crisis communications plan, due to not being directly in the public eye. Butfrom an ill-timed tweet to a negative customer review, in an age where virtually everyone has the ability to post content online, having a robust crisis plan has never been more essential.
“Best practice is to issue your first communication within 15 minutes of becoming aware of an issue. At that point, you probably won’t be able to say very much, but it is important to say something to establish yourself as the authority and source of credible information,” said Astbury.
“In order to act that quickly, you have to be properly prepared in advance.”
The key takeaway: You cannot wait until a crisis happens to decide how you are going to handle communication. Businesses need to identify potential threats, prepare clear, consistent statements and select, brief and train spokespeople.
This article was originally published on March 9, 2020 and republished on March 16, 2021.