Thursday, May 8, 2014

When the Dam Breaks: Crisis Communication

Unexpected crisis happen more often than you would think, and as a business executive, you must have foresight or face the consequences of a lack of preparation.  As an Integrated Marketing Communications student with a particular interest in crisis communication and the use of social media in the field, I have found two articles on crisis communications especially relevant for business executives like yourself.

Jonathan Bernstein’s article “The 10 Steps of CrisisCommunication” outlines what he believes to be the key steps with which to approach the possibility or occurrence of a crisis situation.  In order to ensure that an organization remains steady and in control, it needs to seriously consider the possibility of a threatening situation.  What Bernstein focuses on heavily is the need for preparedness.  Many institutions fall into the trap of considering themselves invulnerable and fail to establish a clear approach for times of crisis, which makes the vulnerable in the event that something does happen to the company. 

Brian West’s article, “How Apple, KFC, Maserati Can DoBetter in PR Crises in China: Social Media, Distance from Company HQ and aPowerful Government are Big Challenges” deals with crisis communications in recent events in China, as foreign companies in China must be quick to deal with many rising issues.  West outlines a number of communication suggestions to consider when dealing with crises in China.

With all the possible crisis situations that could happen, I suggest these top three suggestions to keep in mind when designing your company’s crisis communication strategy:
  • Have a Plan - you must have a strategy to guide your approach to crisis situations and addressing the press.
  • Be Active in Conversation on Social Media—with the prevalence of social media, it is important to consider the conversations that can accumulate on these interactive sites.  It is much more effective to be responsive, even if it means stating that an investigation is still in progress.
  • Be Your Own Media Source—generate your own press to show transparency and maintain connection with your audience.
All organizations are capable of encountering crisis and not being prepared can have detrimental affects on your organization, as evident by companies such as Apple and Toyota and the ways in which they dealt with their crisis situations.  To make the most of the circumstances and deal with the situation in the best way possible you need to maintain a culture of preparedness and open-minded engagement.  It’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared! 

Rachel Park is a senior at Northwestern University studying Integrated Marketing Communications as well as English Literature and Legal Studies.  Rachel is passionate about writing and communication and is looking to pursue a career in public relations and crisis communications.

Contact her on Twitter at @RachelP636 

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