At a time of crisis, we felt it might be nice to help our partners deal with a communication challenge, now that this is something we are experts in.
Guide to the checklist:
Prepare a list of possible crisis situations. For example, your headquarters may decide to close down business in the market, or your production plans may be disrupted due to the unavailability of components. In this case, options may vary across companies, but it is vital you list them all and rank them by the likelihood of occurrence and impact on your business and stakeholders. Write out everything that comes to your mind. In particular, look at the current market conditions. Update this list regularly as news and input data come in.
Appoint a crisis management team. Allocate the roles and appoint a person to communicate with the media, opinion leaders, and other stakeholders. It could be one person or different people for each of the audiences. The fewer, the better. Outline the team's areas of responsibility and prescribe a policy of silence for everyone else in the event of a crisis. Make sure your employees have the crisis team's contacts so they can communicate with the outside world through them.
Develop a system of alerts. These can be disseminated in whichever channel you have the fastest, i.e. mail, chat, or phone calls. In an emergency, the crisis management team steps in and all other communications are shut down.
Prepare a list of audiences/stakeholders. These could include the media, shareholders, foreign supervisors, clients, partners, government agencies, employees — anyone who might be affected by the situation or who could intervene in it for you. For each group on the list, write down the relevant attributes. Specifically, for the media, this could be getting a high-profile headline, for shareholders — value and preservation of assets, for government agencies — preservation of jobs and social security, for employees — their safety and retention of their employment.
Prepare a template of an official statement. To do this, you need to determine your position first. The position can be anything, such as "waiting for a decision from headquarters" or "some decision has already been made," "we share the public's concern," "we make no comment on the situation," and so on. On its basis, you can prepare a template for one or more situations. The template should briefly describe the situation and inform the relevant target audience about the company's planned response, the measures being taken, and the implications of the situation for that audience. Example: "We have seen companies in our sector winding down their businesses, and while we have not received further information, we are working with our HQ on an appropriate solution and will notify you as soon as there is clarity in this regard. We guarantee our support for running projects," etc. You don't need to sugarcoat it, just be objective, neutral, and supportive.
Clearly lay out and deliver the company's position to all employees; develop behavioral guidelines for social networks and public appearances. Employees at all levels represent the company to their peers, and the higher their position, the more compelling their support for the position should be. Alternatively, they should keep perfectly silent. Anything your colleagues post on the Internet and say publicly could be used against the company.
Prepare a list of speakers for comments and responsive communication. It is best that you limit this list all the way down to a single person who is fully informed of the crisis situation and has the appropriate status. It is highly desirable to hold media training with this speaker (or speakers) in order to consider possible questions from the audience and the answers to them.
Design and prepare procedures for real-time monitoring of the media and social networks. At the very least, configure the alerts to say "%company_name% is leaving/closing/terminating" or whichever is appropriate under the first point.
Prepare a system for notifying the crisis management team and employees of the information crisis.
Prepare lists of key topical media outlets and journalists.
All of the points above are preparatory. It looks like a lot, but there is nothing too complicated that can't be done in 1–2 days in companies with up to 200–300 employees.‑
Now, let's see what can be done when the alerts are triggered and a crisis for the company has occurred.
The crisis management team analyzes all of the collected notifications for their veracity, authenticity, possible damage to the company, and influence of/on the stakeholders. Launch real-time monitoring of the media space (YouScan, BrandAnalytics, Medialogy, etc.). Disseminate an internal notification of the crisis and the introduction of a pre-developed plan.
Limit information outflows and assign outside queries to dedicated people. It is highly desirable to keep everyone within your company informed and circulate status updates when things change.
Prepare a formal statement based on a template or from scratch. Such a statement should describe the situation for a particular stakeholder group and outline the measures taken by the company to resolve the issue or mitigate the damage. It should be disseminated to key media outlets for timely notification of the right target audience. Following the articles, a press bulletin should be compiled and sent to the representatives of the target audience.
Establish interaction with key media representatives and opinion leaders to manage information (to the extent possible), correct statements, and issue rebuttals when necessary.
There is still hope for the best outcome.
After a crisis, there is time to reflect and measure losses, followed by natural growth. We hope that this document will give you a frame of reference and a plan of action.
Keep in mind:
Any position is viable as long as it does not conflict with the law;
Any position you take will trigger some reaction from one or more groups of stakeholders, so be sure to consider this before publicly expressing it;
The absence of a position statement causes a communications gap that is filled with random noise;
Transparency and clear instructions within the company will help maintain the integrity and reduce the chances of a crisis becoming unmanageable.