Crisis communication: make or break your reputation

Each month, one of our consultants shares his or her expertise on different topics. Discover today the impact of effective crisis communication on your organisation's reputation, through the expert eye of our consultant Sophie Supré.

If we have learned anything over the past year and a half, it’s that no organisation is immune to a crisis. COVID-19 has shaken up the world and many had to face significant human, organisational and financial challenges. Some had to reduce their production capacity, others had to scale up but were caught in a media storm in the blink of an eye because of a miscalculation. Either way, an organisation's reputation is made or broken by its response to the crisis, not always by the crisis itself.

Today, a crisis does not only take place within an organisation, but also, and above all, in the media or due to external events unrelated to the company itself. Although a crisis often comes unexpectedly, preparation is the key to managing it well. It is therefore important to draw up various crisis scenarios and have a crisis communication plan ready. Even if a crisis has already arisen, it is crucial to take well-considered actions. Define a crisis team consisting of some members of the board of directors, the legal team, the communications team, appoint a spokesperson and get ready to tackle this crisis together from start to finish.

Monitor the way your reputation is handled in the media

Once a crisis is about to develop or has already developed, it is important to start with a good media monitoring. Media monitoring allows organisations to anticipate reactions of the public opinion and take actions to minimize the impact of it. But be careful, negative attention may only last a few hours as the media quickly turn to the next big story. Don’t make the mistake of issuing a statement or offering interviews about a negative issue after the main attention has faded. On the other hand, a quick explanation of the facts to the right people can also prevent a negative story. Only after a proper media analysis, well-considered actions can be taken.

React intelligently, quickly and assertively

Depending on the crisis and its stage, it is essential to send out a reactive statement to the press. A statement is short and contains an empathetic reaction about the crisis at hand. Communicating authentically remains the best policy in a crisis. Putting people first should always be at the core of any crisis management. Sending out a statement also gives your organisation time to prepare for the next steps and indicates to the media that your organisation is following up the matter.

Be prepared for the most convoluted questions possible

If there is no Q&A available about the particular case, this is a good time to set one up. The Q&A contains all possible questions about the crisis at hand. Obvious questions, but also questions that are tedious to answer. Keep in mind that when answering the questions, it is important to stay close to the subject and not create a new question. Have the Q&A proofread by your legal team, especially as tricky questions should not spread falsehoods.

Training is still the best way to face the marathon of crises

In order to learn how to identify crises but also to become familiar with communication tools, organising a crisis training is essential. Also for communication teams. During these sessions, in addition to thinking about the best strategies and building trust, communication channels are dissected in order to test the most effective ways of getting messages across to employees, customers and the media.

Focus on people and especially your employees

And don’t forget, the pressure from the media can often be intense, but public perception is just one part of the response. Keep your employees up to date, even if there is not much time, there are many tools that can provide support.

Is your organisation facing a sudden crisis and are you looking for support? With more than 20 years of experience in crisis management, Interel Belgium advises and supports you to cope with any situation and to provide the best solutions to protect your organization from reputational damage. Our team is available 24/7. Contact us for more information on how we can help you.