Risk, Issues & Crisis

December 14, 2018

Confident about your crisis communications?


As the world becomes more social, user-generated content will continue to drive the pace of crises – and crisis communications. Organisations can spend years building and strengthening their brand and identity, yet this can all come crashing down in minutes if they aren’t prepared to respond quickly and effectively to an adverse situation.

To help drive this message home, Instinctif Partners put members of the Inter Company Consumer Affairs (ICCA) Association through their paces during an interactive exercise at its AGM. Role-playing as a fictional company, Ice Dreams, delegates were asked to consider what actions they (and their colleagues in other crisis management functions) would take at certain points during an escalating food safety scenario.

The underlying theme of the exercise was around growth mind-set. Exploring what has gone wrong or why mistakes have been made is fundamental to becoming more resilient, and it’s no different for crisis management. It’s essential that organisations spend time to assess their performance following a crisis, identifying where there were weaknesses in processes, procedures, or even people, so that their response can be strengthened for next time. However more often than not, when a crisis is over, organisations are so eager to get back to business as usual and a sense of normality that the post-crisis review is quickly forgotten about.

To make sure delegates reflected on their performance and acknowledged what they would do differently next time around, Instinctif Partners built in time for a post-simulation exercise review and urged delegates to consider three things they might do differently when returned to the office.

One of the biggest learnings from the session was the importance of collaboration – whether with colleagues in the office, colleagues in other locations, or even third party agencies that offer additional support. It’s easier said than done, but to ensure you are truly prepared for potential crises, organisations need to have a culture of open collaboration with all internal stakeholders which makes clear and timely communication everyone’s responsibility. Keeping those crucial two-way information flows open during business as usual will make communicating in a crisis much more effective as key relationships and channels of communication will be well established.

Another key learning was around preparation. Following an input where the Ice Dreams website crashed due to the volume of visitors, delegates expressed concern about the capabilities of their organisation’s own website. Many noted the need to explore the possibility of dark site implementation should their website fail at a time when it is most needed. We concluded that unifying, simplifying and testing procedures is the key to effective response, and that this preparation is vital to do before you find yourself having to respond to a real incident.

Managing a crisis can be stressful, regardless of the size of the organisation, and the need for fast and coherent communications is essential. How you communicate – internally as well as externally – will be essential for how the event will further develop and the way both the public and your employees will perceive you in the future. If executed correctly, effectively communicating in a crisis can actually help an organisation build long-term trust with stakeholders and aid in restoring brand reputation afterwards.