Crisis communication

If you have a business, you should always have a crisis communication plan ready to guide you in such situations. This is especially important for start-ups, because they have much more to lose from such an incident than a big brand.

How do crises occur? 

A crisis doesn’t care about the size, nationality or business of a company… and it also does not care if it’s the weekend or a holiday. No matter how good or fair you are, a crisis doesn't always start from the inside.  Here are some important facts:  

  • 57% of the world consumers boycotted a company in 2017. 

  • Every customer, employee, passer-by has their own media channel through which they can convey their perception of your company to others. 

  • Last year, 6 out of 10 SMEs globally were victims of a cyber-attack. 

All your customers' personal data can be gone overnight! Your online platform can be attacked by a hacker and your website can become a weapon selling website overnight. Or a customer gets poisoned with your product... What do you do? Who do you call? What do you tell your customers? That’s how a crisis begins. 

What is a crisis? 

The word crisis comes from the Greek "krinein", which means to decide/analyze. It is a moment of major importance for your company's reputation. The decisions you make in these moments can either save you or bury you. 

A crisis is any situation that could affect the reputation of your company and that temporarily affects the normal operation of your business. It's that moment when everyone turns against you, your friends don't seem to know you anymore and your customers call you in a panic for clarifications. 

From my point of view, as a communicator who has seen countless crisis situations, understanding how to manage such a situation is essential for small companies and entrepreneurs. They have a lot more to lose from an incident than a big brand with a solid reputation and lots of budgets behind it to help it rebuild the brand's image. 

We know very well that all customers do a Google search before deciding to work with one company or another. Google will definitely index any negative story about your company. So, how can you protect your reputation?! 

3 ideas about crises and their management 

Be ready 

Let's say that you don't believe in crisis situations, that you see yourself as too small and uninteresting, or maybe you are telling yourself that you are a B2B business that has no contact with direct customers, and therefore you are out of harm’s way. 

But when a crisis hits, and believe me, it will hit, you won't have time to make plans and scenarios. A short document where you list all possible crisis situations and write down the phone numbers of people who can help you: communication people, lawyers, journalists, can make the difference between a business with a future and one without any future. 

  • Attend a media training, it will also prove useful in your company's promotional campaigns. Do a brainstorming with your colleagues and see what possible crisis situations you may encounter down the road, what the vulnerabilities of your business are - don't censor yourself, put all your ideas on paper and be honest with yourself when you do it. Then analyze the reactions/responses suitable for every situation. A plan helps you make good decisions quickly. 

As Sir Winston Churchill once said "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail". Think fast, talk smart! 

  • A crisis is sure to attract a lot of talk. The social media is going to be full of people giving their opinion on the matter, speculating or giving false information. Customers communicate with each other quickly. The longer you delay your response, the more likely you are to lose control of the story. 

  • During the first moments after the beginning of the crisis it is essential to gather as much information as possible from those who can clarify the situation: colleagues, experts, witnesses, etc. 

  • When you communicate, pay attention to every word and how it could be interpreted. “Haters” won't miss any opportunity to do a semantic analysis of your message. 

  • Don't speak or write before you think it through. Write down your key messages. You don't have to have all the information from the very beginning, it's important to react quickly with the correct information you have at that time and not make promises you can't keep. 

  • Your messages should be short, simple and to the point. People should know concretely what happened, how you are going to solve the situation and what measures you are taking to prevent such situations from occurring again in the future. 

Don't lie and don't avoid saying "I don't know" if you don't have that information yet. 

Once you have your message set, you have to make sure it reached all interested parties. In other words, you must know very clearly how your message can get as quickly as possible to your customers, the press, your partners, and the banks that are watching you. Surely you have this list in the crisis plan you prepared a long time ago, right? 

Remember, perception is reality. 

If your audience thinks you're in a crisis, then it doesn't matter what you think... you're in a crisis. Perception is reality. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those around you: customer, spectator, analyst, employee. How does the situation look like from their perspective? It is not enough for you to say that you are not guilty or self-pitying yourself in public hoping for divine forgiveness. 

  • In a crisis, people want to see you as the leader. Unfortunately, very often in crisis situations people choose the ostrich strategy. Silence, however, will not prevent others from speaking about you or on your behalf. The longer you stay silent, the guiltier you will look.  

How you react in such situations will define you as a person and as a business. A crisis is an opportunity, no matter how cliche that sounds to you. If you manage the crisis and don't let it manage you, then you are most likely going to preserve your reputation and even strengthen it. 

In the end, because everyone is talking about 'fake news' lately, and I have even seen countless crisis situations starting from fake news, I will leave you some food for thought: "A lie travels halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes.". 

Instead of goodbye, I just want to say "never waste a good crisis". 

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