In a previous article, I highlighted the priorities of developing a crisis communication plan and the importance of being prepared in critical situations. As business owners and executives, it is always our hope that the plan serves only as a quiet insurance policy and that we’ll never have to use it. However, too often, businesses do find themselves in a serious situation and while preparation and orchestrated response are key, we also need to consider what to do after a crisis. Sometimes the post-crisis bounce-back is quick, but occasionally a company will need to take stock of the issue(s) and overhaul its image to counter the negativity, in order for it to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace. We’ve all heard that old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” however, it’s human nature to base opinions off of first impressions, and if your image and company have been negatively impacted, the negative will often be the first thing the public focuses on. The following are some simple steps to take to help your company recover once a crisis has come and gone:
- Conduct post-crisis analysis – Organize a post-mortem assessment to determine how your team responded in the face of the crisis. Were team members and other personnel responsive? Did you provide consistent and timely communication both internally and externally? This is the opportunity to step outside the crisis and outline what worked and what could be handled better, should you find yourself in another crisis situation in the future.
- Update your crisis plan – Take the lessons learned from the post-crisis analysis to thoughtfully update your crisis communication plan. This could be a combination of making sure you have the right people identified to handle specific tasks, as well as to include those communication channels and tactics that worked best. And if you didn’t have a crisis communication plan to start with, this is your opportunity to take your real-life experience and draft an all-encompassing plan.
- Set the right expectations – Once you determine what you need to improve upon and how you will avoid or manage a similar crisis in the future, it’s time to communicate to your stakeholders just how you will do better and how you plan to rebuild their trust. Determine what you will say and how you’ll best disseminate the information to ensure it reaches your audience(s). Remember, this should not only include your external stakeholders, but also your employees.
- Outline ongoing key messaging – Crisis response rarely ends when the actual crisis does. A lot of damage control not only comes from how a company responds during the heat, but also how it continues to respond in the days, weeks and sometimes years, following the crisis. Make sure you develop messaging that is consistent and that you’re clearly identifying the person (or people) that are authorized to speak on behalf of your company. Make sure everyone knows what they can – and can’t – say, and who to refer to moving forward.
- Review your marketing efforts – Make sure that your website, social media platforms and any external communication vehicles align properly with your newly restructured company messaging. Whether it’s a statement on your website or a post on your company’s Twitter profile, address what you’re doing to ensure a repeat doesn’t happen in the future. In some cases, you are likely to receive blips of negative response from outside parties, specifically through social media sites – and while it is important to respond, make sure your responses are positive and not reactive. And remember, I’ve talked about Internet trolls before – don’t ignore or delete a negative post, but don’t continue to engage in combative dialogue once you’ve addressed the initial concern.
While planning is key to a company’s preparedness for a crisis situation, your stakeholders really only see how you manage a crisis when it happens and what you do to rebuild trust after. Self-assessment and transparency will provide impacted parties with proof that your company took the crisis seriously and that you have implemented the necessary precautions to avoid any missteps in future situations.