The coronavirus “Covid-19” currently sets each company in an unknown and individual dynamic. Every organization should feel obliged to offer its stakeholders a comprehensive explanation and information basis, no matter if for employees or the public domain. However, Corona is not and will not remain the only crisis to be managed in our world. In these critical phases, whether anticipatory or coming out of the blue, it is essential to decide how to handle such a crisis communicatively.
“The word crisis in Chinese is made up of two signs: one signifies danger and the other opportunity” – John F. Kennedy already put it in a nutshell in one of his speeches given in 1959. Becoming aware of a crisis, but seeing it as an opportunity for something new, is the challenge of a crisis team and its crisis communication.
But at what point is a crisis a crisis?
A crisis is a problem that forces the company to reach a turning-point or decision-making situation. Strategic and operational crises are crises that impair the achievement of corporate goals or the scope for action in the economy. We speak of a market crisis whenever a business is not directly affected, but the situation on the market suddenly and unexpectedly deteriorates. As soon as a crisis causes the entire company and its raison d’être to sway, it is classified as an existential crisis.
Exactly in such moments, the communicative approach is the main challenge – professional crisis communication is one of the most essential parts. Whoever attaches importance to facts and comprehensible information offers less scope for attack and creates space to use the grievance as an opportunity. Therefore, crisis communication is also called the supreme discipline of communication.
Whoever recognizes the extent of a crisis quickly and pragmatically will steal the thunder at an early stage and provide extra time and calmness. An escape or ignorance of the circumstance only demonstrates inadequate internal organization and is not a strategy.
Aware that a company’s success in a crisis will depend on the opinion of its stakeholders, the following principles should be observed:
Analyzing the situation
In this phase, the crisis is examined from all possible perspectives. Where is the origin of the problem, what is already known about it, what has happened so far and what consequences can be expected?! An overall mind map serves as an aid here.
During crisis communication, each group of users that have common points of interest will be informed continuously about the situation. To achieve such a situation, a stakeholder matrix is needed that contains a detailed list of all internal and external recipients. From the management to the employees and from the journalists to the individual citizen.
Coordinating the team
In addition to a crisis management group, it is useful to create a crisis manual as a guide for what should be communicated, when and how. Furthermore, it is important to enabling a patron who is available to answer questions and can be contacted for all matters concerning the crisis. Responsibilities are indispensable here.
Distribute information 24/7
In a crisis time is scarce – the premise is to be meaningful and to be communicative instead of just reacting. Not contestable information must, therefore, be passed on as quickly as possible and without delay through deliberately selected communication channels.
Follow the rules of the game
The information must always be accurate and truthful. Expressing the wrong things or even glossing them over deteriorates the company’s credibility vis-à-vis all user groups. Crisis communication is not a one-way street, rather it seeks dialogue to address problems, answer questions and not avoid them. This is where the message counts! Clear statements, formulated in a way that is understandable for everyone, reduce the scope for interpretation. Employees, as well as society, are multipliers, therefore it demands simultaneous and coordinated communication without contradictions.
We at the communication loft of P3 make it our business to find suitable and effective answers to all imaginable questions for our clients within the scope of their communication. Crisis communication requires thinking and acting ahead. We like to see ourselves as Team Red, who slips into different situations and knows exactly how to find that one important sentence that means the solution.