Have you ever thought of what you would do if a major supplier or manufacturing plant suddenly crumbled because of a devastating earthquake or due to the current coronavirus pandemic? Suddenly you have no new products, your staff members are unemployed, and you start losing clients. What are you going to do?
Why is it important to plan communication methods for a crisis?
Your company relies on its customers and stakeholders for income generation. In case an emergency or a crisis occurs, you need to be able to clearly communicate with your investors and clients to let them know your company’s current state. It is also helpful for you to assure them that you are working on the problem and that you will get back on track as quickly as possible. Rudy Guiliani, mayor of New York during the 9/11 attack, effectively communicated to New York citizens and kept them updated on the government’s actions, greatly reducing people’s anxieties.
Again, effective communication is key. If your customers, investors, and employees are not informed about what is going on, they will start getting anxious.
Worse, they might start speculating and spreading incorrect information because they are not getting any updates from you. A great example of this is how Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol tampering incident in Chicago in 1982, where seven people died. They immediately removed the contaminated products from the market and communicated very well with the media. Had it not been for their fast and effective response, the company probably would have suffered greater losses in both profits and brand reputation.
What should you consider when you are drafting your communication plans for emergencies?
· Who are your point people for mass media communications? These are the people you should be communicating with directly. They, in turn, will be the ones disseminating the information to the general public. With mass media being the fastest way to announce information, your contacts should include people from newspapers and television stations.
· Who is your spokesperson for your investors and stakeholders? The severity of the emergency or crisis your company is currently facing should be directly correlated to the rank or position of the person you choose to speak for you. If there has been a grave incident that will greatly affect the company, perhaps the CEO would be better suited to deliver the message to everyone instead of just a spokesperson.
- Do you have a prepared message? It is very important to convey the right message as soon as possible. You need to quickly decide what you can release to the media and what should be kept within the company only. Make sure you know all the details of the situation so you can prepare yourself for possible questions.
Update your emergency communication plans regularly and use them whenever necessary.