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How a board manages crisis communications

by Stephen Conmy

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Every board director and Board will have to manage crisis communications at some point in time. How a Board Manages Crisis Communications through a Crisis will determine whether it survives or otherwise.

Surviving a crisis is not down to luck, it’s down to preparation and practice. For Boards and Directors crisis management requires them to design and develop appropriate capabilities to predict, prepare for, and respond to crisis events.

How a Board Manages Crisis Communications – 3 Levels of PR Crises and What to do About Them?

These capabilities – a combination of processes, knowledge, and experience, cannot be developed overnight. Nor are some people simply born to lead in a crisis. The Boards and Board Directors who deal best with a crisis have looked at their two primary functions – conformance and performance. They therefore need to build appropriate operating models to help them emerge with businesses and reputations intact.

PR crises are scary, damaging and can blow your organisation’s reputation built over many decades within seconds. Gone are the days where it took a natural disaster or a corporate scandal to bring on a full blown crisis. Thanks to social media, organisations have to deal with damaging rumours, fake news, cyberattacks and hackers to name a few.

“Your organisation might not have had a full blown crisis yet but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare. Here are three levels of crises that could hit and what you can do to minimise damage quickly and effectively.”

Level 1

The least serious of them all but not to be underestimated. This is when your organisation is feeling the effects of a major PR crisis that’s hit a major player in your industry / competition / associated industries.

For example, when the Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal broke, the work of a lot of other charities working in the same area came into question.

Here’s what you can do: Firstly, check to see if your organization is tracking news and social media of itself and your competitors? If the answer is no, now’s a good time to start. The minute you pick up on a whiff of a potential scandal, start to put distance between your organization and theirs.

Posts could go out about your facility, workers, strict anti bullying and harassment policies in place, etc.

Level 2

A scandal categorised at Level 2 could be disastrous but it’s not time to panic yet.

These have to do with customer criticisms, complaints and comments. A bad review has the power to take down your business. But it doesn’t mean you have to let it.

Here’s what to do: Monitor your social media for negative comments and respond to them swiftly. You can address the comment publicly or privately depending on how and where the comment was generated. Acknowledge that the customer felt they had a bad experience, promise to register a complaint and provide small discounts etc. to pacify an angry customer.

Level 3

This is the kind of scandal you don’t want to find yourself in. It has the potential to be disruptive to business, threaten the security of customers and destroy your reputation. Your organisation may struggle to come out on top but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Here’s what to do: Since you will be under scrutiny from various sources your response has to be multi channel. Your message has to reach on social media, the news, press, TV and radio. The explanation and or apology has to be broadcast across all channels you have in your control too  – Social media, Website and other.

If your Board doesn’t have a crisis management plan in place, make sure it’s on your next Board Meeting Agenda. To know more on how to implement world class Corporate Governance to reduce the potential of a scandal please consider taking our Diploma in Corporate Governance.

Tags
Boards
Communications
Crisis
Directors
Management

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