“Types of Crisis Communication.” Whether it’s a natural disaster, an employee safety issue, or a media debacle, a crisis can threaten a business’s reputation. To preserve their reputation, companies must respond quickly. The news media are a critical source of initial crisis information. However, the news media may not be the only channel that a company can use.
1. Press releases
A press release is a communication to the news media that provides information about an event. It can be used to announce an event, make an official statement, or create a crisis management plan. The news media are often a critical audience that needs to be reached in a crisis. As a result, research in crisis communication often includes studying the effect of mass media relations on crisis response.
A traditional press release starts with a headline that is designed to grab the attention of journalists and others who read it. It then explains the event in six to eight words or less. It may include a sub-headline that elaborates on the headline.
A crisis management plan (CMP) is a document that provides reminders of what typically should be done in a crisis and serves as a reference tool for those on the team in charge of responding to a crisis. The CMP helps save time during a crisis by providing templates and pre-collected lists of crucial information.
2. Web Sites
A website (sometimes spelled website, web page, or Internet site) is a collection of webpages on the World Wide Web that have been grouped under a single URL. Websites are accessed using an Internet browser, such as Explorer or Firefox.
According to the Corporate Leadership Council (2003), having a crisis website is one of the best practices an organization can have in place for responding to a crisis. During a product recall, for example, a company can use its website to identify which products are affected and provide information on how the recall will be handled.
It is also helpful to have a crisis communication template prepared so that messages can be sent out quickly and efficiently. Both the Corporate Leadership Council (2003) and the Business Roundtable (2002) recommend this practice, in which templates with blanks for critical pieces of information are pre-drafted by public relations staff. Then, when the specific information becomes available, it is simply inserted into the template and made publicly available.
3. Mass Notification Systems
Mass notification systems allow organizations to send one-way communications to all stakeholders via phone, email, and/or text. They can also detect and notify staff of specific crisis scenarios automatically and without human intervention.
A well-designed mass notification system allows an organization to monitor and evaluate how it responds to events as they unfold. It can help an organization improve its crisis communication processes for the future and determine whether it needs to amend existing policies and train spokespeople.
Spokespersons need to be thoroughly trained and briefed on the key message points the organization intends to convey during a crisis. They should be able to present information clearly with limited disfluencies (e.g., “this”) and nervous gestures. Spokespersons should also have strong eye contact to avoid being perceived as deceptive.
In addition, the best emergency notification systems enable two-way communication between recipients and the organization. This allows employees to mark themselves as safe and seek assistance, focusing the organization’s response efforts where they are needed most.
4. Expressions of Concern
In addition to providing information, crisis managers should express sympathy and concern for anyone impacted by the crisis. This is known as an expression of concern (EEoC), and it has been shown to lessen reputational damage from a crisis. (Kellerman, 2006; Coombs & Holladay, 1996).
Communication before, during, and after a crisis should be two-way. Ensure stakeholders can ask questions and receive answers from the business. This can be accomplished by creating avenues of communication with a specific contact person or responsible department.
Clearly identify which individuals are the lead and backup spokespersons for each channel of communication. This will help to reduce the chances of a misstep, such as stating that an employee is an expert on the situation when they are not or making statements that can be viewed as justification (i.e., “Our oil spill was only a drop in the ocean compared to the Exxon Valdez,” or “it was tragic that someone died in our car crash, but they weren’t wearing their seatbelt”). Continual reviews of holding statements should be done by the Crisis Communications Team.