Our recent blog posts on the crises faced at NatWest, Ulster Bank, O2 and Progressive Insurance highlighted just how important communications can be during and after a crisis. In a crisis, perception can be more powerful than reality and emotions can become facts: no matter how well your company responds to and resolves an issue, if stakeholders and the public don’t hear this (with a healthy slice of humble pie on the side), your reputation can suffer the consequences.
During crisis simulation exercises and press conferences, we all too often see messages that do not reflect the reality of the response. In the boardroom, crisis management teams often perform brilliantly, with efficiency and demonstrable concern for stakeholders. Despite this, public perception can still paint an organisation as a callous corporate, concerned only with chasing profits. Those at the centre of the response sometimes see communications as yet another distraction diverting attention away from resolving the issue itself – see G4S CEO Nick Buckles’ response to the press after the company’s Olympics security shambles for a prime example.
In reality, however, the communications team can be the crisis manager’s greatest ally. Regularly updated, informative and relevant messages can deflect attention and a well-prepared communications team can field queries and reassure stakeholders, leaving the crisis management team to concentrate on the task at hand.
Co-ordination between the communications team and the crisis management team is central to success, and should be driven by well prepared plans on both sides that drive the incorporation of facts with key messages and support an integrated approach to crisis response.
See our blog post on Planning Crisis Communications for tips on what you should include in your crisis communications plan.