Excerpt: Crisis Communication Strategies

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AN excerpt about business recovery after a crisis from chapter 8 ‘Stepping on the road to recovery’ of Crisis Communication Strategies by Amanda Coleman, author and director of Amanda Coleman Communications Ltd.

The four Rs of long-term recovery

The long-term recovery of the business requires four elements to be in place: rebuilding, reviewing, resources and re-establishing. Each of the elements is essential to build a strong communication to move the business forward after a crisis.

Review

Using the data, insight and monitoring that have been in place during the active phase of the crisis assess what has worked, where any gaps are and what the reputation of the business currently is. It may be worthwhile utilizing some form of reputation tracker to assess against competitors and recognize the position. All this information will be essential for you to then create a long-term communication plan to identify the activity that needs to be in place in recovery. You need to understand what the impact has been to be able to focus the activity needed going forward.

Rebuild

The data from the review section will provide the information needed to focus the plan to rebuild. However, you also need to assess any previous problems that have occurred, any outstanding issues or other factors that may impact on reputation. For example, the CEO may be under the spotlight for some unconnected issue, but this needs to be understood when you are devising the recovery communication plan. Be clear what the organization needs to overcome and what it needs to be recognized for when customers or service users are thinking about it. Is this still the same even after the crisis? Does the business need to do some work on the values, principles or priorities in light of what has happened?

Resources

One of the most challenging situations for a communicator leading a team in dealing with a crisis and then continuing through to managing the aftermath is the impact on resources. As we have discussed earlier, crisis communication demands a speedy response, which needs people to be trained and ready. Some of the staffing required may come from other areas of the business or from outside of the business if you have used contractors. The use of all these people will be finite due to the requirements of the sections that they may have been taken from or because of the impact on the budget if they are being brought in from agencies. The communication team is likely to end up in a position where they are simultaneously dealing with the aftermath of the crisis, looking at the recovery phase, and needing to be returning to usual communication activity, and all this will have to be done with the same number of staff in place as before the crisis occurred. Assess the communication staffing levels required and prepare details of the number of additional staff that may be required in the coming weeks and months. Alongside the staffing you may want to request funding for a reputation tracking system if that does not already exist, as this will assist in the understanding of the impact of activity on rebuilding reputation.

Re-establish

The focus of recovery communication should be on re-establishing the brand, organization or company. This will require close working with the CEO and senior management team to support a review of the business objectives, policies and procedures to ensure issues identified from the crisis are considered. Review the organization’s communication strategy to retain what is required and enhance it based on the learning and experience. This also needs the input of stakeholders who will be able to act as critical friends and offer advice about the way forward. If you have established victim support, then it is advisable to involve them in the future development of the business if at all possible. More developed and evolved businesses may be able to find a way to involve customers or service users at this stage as well. The key is to re-establish the business within society and ensure it is not isolated or marginalized due to the crisis. But be careful not to see re-establishing the business as purely a reputation management issue because that will lead to surface changes but no substance. It means that moving forward will lack a solid basis.

This extract from Crisis Communication Strategies by Amanda Coleman is ©2020 and reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.