Crisis Communication: Planning for Problems

January 4, 2024

Effective crisis communication is not just a tool for damage control; it’s a strategic imperative for navigating the complexities of today’s fast-paced and interconnected world. From a 24-hour news cycle and ever-evolving digital landscape to unpredictable national and global challenges and events, businesses and organizations constantly face a myriad of risks that have the potential to disrupt operations, obstruct mission-critical objectives, blemish brand reputation, and damage institutional trust with key audiences and constituencies.

Honing essential crisis communication skills and practices is a vital component of organizational and campaign success to ensure that – no matter the challenge – businesses and organizations are best equipped to effectively traverse precarious situations.

Anticipate Challenges and Problems:

Whether preparing for a major announcement, rolling out a new product, or managing day-to-day success, identifying potential problems and vulnerabilities is a fundamental crisis communication principle. Up-to-date risk assessments rely on regularly monitoring industry trends as well as impending regulatory and legislative changes, in addition to staying attuned to crucial stakeholder views and concerns. By pre-emptively recognizing and examining conceivable challenges, organizations can stay a step ahead with strategically outlined contingency plans that account for the possible impact of various scenarios and feasibly address issues before they escalate.

Lead with Adaptability and Flexibility:

At a time when the unexpected and unprecedented have become the norm, quick and agile adjustments are crucial to staying abreast of potential pitfalls. Rigidity in strictly adhering to predetermined communications plans hinders the ability to respond to dynamic and shifting landscapes in real-time. The only constant we can count on is change, which necessitates communication strategies that can adapt to address emerging issues and situations. Embracing adaptability does not mean that organizations must eschew their values and objectives, but rather allows them to maintain a coherent narrative with relevant and effective messaging.

Maintain Authenticity:

From companies and organizations to coalitions and movements, each has its own unique voice that is connected to its overall tenets and principles. When faced with a challenge or crisis, it is imperative to lean into these core values when developing and deciding on the best course of communication as well as actionable responses. In crisis communication, authenticity also includes a willingness to learn and grow, sometimes by acknowledging mistakes, implementing changes, and reaffirming commitments to protect long-term credibility.

Know When to Pivot:

No matter how much we meticulously plan and coordinate, a crisis can completely upend any situation or even the most detailed communication blueprint. At these times, it is crucial to know when to change course to focus on damage control. This requires a comprehensive understanding of the evolving issue or situation and any potential ramifications, keen insight into stakeholder and/or public sentiment, and the ability to make swift, well-informed decisions. Pivoting may involve a change in messaging or the messenger, the utilization of additional or alternative communication channels, or even a shift in the overall narrative. Organizations that understand and acknowledge when to pivot are better situated to effectively manage the crisis at hand and mitigate potential reputational damage.

Successful crisis communication requires diligent foresight, strategic thinking, and adaptability. In an age where public perception is a powerful force, crisis communication is not just a skill, but a key factor in any business or organization’s long-term success.

Please contact Nikki Cannon and Ben Jenkins if you are interested in learning more on how LSG can be your partner in developing an effective crisis communication apparatus.