Josh Wilson is a publicist at Otter PR in Orlando, Florida.
Every association knows a crisis can occur at any time. While many have a guide, these tips can help your organization be sure your communications plan takes into account today’s times, including cancel culture and legal concerns.
Benjamin Franklin once expressed, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." These wise words outline the importance of preparedness in many areas of life and business, especially in times of crisis.
No association ever sets out to court a crisis. Still, a crisis can occur when it is least expected. Having a solid plan in place for how to weather even the most stressful situations can ensure the viability of your association going forward.
One of the most important parts of handling a crisis is the communications aspect. The information disseminated, at what time, and to whom can make the difference between a well-handled crisis and an absolute disaster. Here are some tips for installing a crisis communications plan within your organization and implementing it when the time comes.
Create a crisis management team. Every association should have a crisis management team that includes communications experts. The guidelines and project-management steps that they devise should be part of organizational handbooks and communicated well to other association staff. Association leaders need to spearhead the creation of these teams, putting people in place who will best lead the organization during a crisis.
One careless slip-of-the-tongue can bring down an entire organization and have you "canceled" in an instant. This is where the power of the team comes in.
Small mistakes can mean big consequences. It's crucial that amid a crisis, the team thoughtfully executes communication strategies. In the 24-hour news cycle and the harsh world of social media, one typo in a tweet can instantly have all eyes on you. One careless slip-of-the-tongue can bring down an entire organization and have you "canceled" in an instant. This is where the power of the team comes in. Having multiple eyes and ears on a situation will help avoid the issue of one voice having all of the say when addressing the community.
Time is of the essence. When a crisis hits, the last thing an organization will want to do is stay silent. A timely response is integral to successful crisis communications. However, responding too quickly and "off the cuff" can lead to mistakes in communication that could be highly detrimental to your association. The crisis management team needs to research the issue at hand thoroughly and be thoughtful but prompt in their response.
Mind the law. Legal issues are often entangled with a crisis. It helps to have a lawyer at the ready to consult and give direction to your association. When you’re not aware of the laws involved in the crisis your organization is tackling, you run the risk of making the problem worse.
Have lists and guidelines at the ready. The job of the crisis-management team is to organize the association’s strategy and then get that strategy in writing. Guidelines for handling a variety of crises need to be properly communicated to those who need to know the information. Communications can be stressful in a crisis, and even the most solid communications expert can get flustered. Having the chosen strategy written down and available helps guide communications and the overall approach to crisis management.
Prepare for the worst. Sometimes, backlash or bad press can be unavoidable, no matter how prepared an association may be. By remaining thoughtful in your communication approach and being mindful of any possible risks involved in your communication plan, you can prepare as much as possible.
When an association weathers a crisis together, it not only learns from the experience but is often strengthened from it as well. Having a clear plan and delegating communication duties to the right people can help associations survive even the most harrowing crisis.