A crisis almost always brings a unique set of challenges for companies and institutions. During a crisis, a company’s leadership team immediately receives well-intended but unsolicited advice from all corners, resulting in disjointed thinking and lack of clear strategy. The organization generally continues to function but at varying levels of success depending on the type of distraction or event. Once dusted off, operational crisis management plans may conflict with crisis communication best practices. Sales, earnings, revenues and relationships can all suffer due to a number of operational and reputational challenges.
The goal in any crisis is to preserve your organization’s business and reputation. How do you do that? You STRIVE.
- Speed – Often, a crisis gums up the work of a corporation when speed is of the essence. New attorneys, worried executives and anxious creditors, customers or vendors can all contribute to slowing down vital communications. The solution is to establish a clear, quick approval channel for all communication efforts. Different protocols may need to be considered for internal and external communications. In addition, your communications team must be “given the pen” to take the lead.
- Truth – In a crisis, there is no time for politics, recriminations or blame. Your communications advisor must be able to speak honestly to the C-suite and legal team without fear of long-term career consequences. Oftentimes, an agency partner is more suited for this role than an internal leader.
- Resources – Your communications team must have the ability to quickly generate content and deliver messages across channels. Sometimes a simple statement works, but most of the time, digital content, video, media statements and creative must be generated rapidly while being on brand and on message.
- Insulation – The unseen impact of a crisis is the effect it has on those not directly engaged. If you let it, a crisis can seep from the C-suite into all levels of the organization, slowing down work productivity and generating uncertainty among your key managers and leaders. One of the wisest things a leader can do in a crisis is appoint a small group of leaders to tackle the issues, leaving other teams free to focus on over-delivering in their day-to-day jobs.
- Vision – Organizations often feel like they are “in the foxhole” during a crisis because of constant attacks. In a crisis, trusted counsel must keep its head above ground, understanding the external environment and what is being said about your organization by all key audiences. This 360-degree vision can provide insight and clarity to your communications.
- Expertise – Every crisis is different, but there are a few rules that apply to the vast majority:
- Carefully consider who should be your spokesperson. Be sure they are trained and ready to address the specific issue at hand.
- Evaluate the situation and determine the necessary speed of message delivery (faster is usually better).
- Determine the substance of what needs to be said.
- Carefully stage your communication if you are in a visual environment.
- When appropriate, show remorse and regret quickly.
When your organization is overcoming a challenge, remember the STRIVE formula: Speed, Truth, Resources, Insulation, Vision and Expertise. It won’t make the challenge go away, but chances are, applying these rules will improve your chances of preserving your revenue and reputation in a crisis.