10 Critical Steps for Crisis Management and Communication

No one wants to face a crisis. Yet it is an absolute certainty that each of us will experience one or more crises during the course of our professional careers, or in our personal lives. Some may be relatively minor, while others may escalate into a full-fledged existential crisis that may well threaten our livelihood, or even put our very lives at risk.

In its most basic sense, we should consider crisis management as the process by which a business or an individual deals with a sudden emergency situation. It is a time for cooler heads to prevail, although it is also a time when many of us simply find ourselves overwhelmed.

Fortunately, there are people out there with the training and skills to help you through these extremely difficult conditions. And one such example is our crisis management firm known as Red Banyan.

What to Look Out For: A Crisis Definition

Any time a person, or an organization, encounters a period of intense difficulty or instability, especially when it arrives with little or no warning, they are in a crisis situation. It could be as universal as the Covid-19 pandemic, or as personal as being the victim of discrimination or unwarranted job loss.

To bring this crisis definition closer to home, one need only think back to a time when we were caught completely off guard, and the feeling of panic it produced. Some people respond to unforeseen events better than others, and they quickly brush aside their panic to formulate a crisis response that they believe will work.

On the other hand, many people react to a crisis situation by doing nothing at all. They retreat into their shell, and just wish the problem would go away. This “turtle” approach never works, after all, think of what happens to a turtle on the highway with a tractor-trailer bearing down on it. Likewise, if you choose to stand still, and not take any action, you are going to get crushed.

It is always better to do something. And knowing the best possible course of action for any given situation can only be gained by experience. That is why, when you are in dire straits, working with a seasoned crisis manager or agency is so essential. While the situation may be new to you, chances are your crisis manager has encountered a similar event literally dozens of times, and knows how to quickly develop an effective crisis response, especially when time is of the essence.

Crisis Communication Essentials: Knowing What to Say

First and foremost, every reputable crisis manager needs to be a skilled communicator. They have to be extremely comfortable talking with and getting their point across to people from all walks of life—from high-ranking officials to service workers and everyone in between.

Moreover, they have to cultivate a good relationship with the press, because many times the crisis you experience will become a matter of public record, and how that story is reported can make all the difference in how people think about your company and the service it provides.

When you hire a crisis management expert, you are effectively authorizing them to be the mouthpiece of your organization during a time of great difficulty. Since many, if not all, come from the ranks of public relations professionals, you are getting someone who is attuned to the all the subtle nuances of crisis communication and will know how to frame an argument on your behalf and portray you in the best possible light.

A crisis management expert with the proper PR training knows that in many cases, perception is reality. If, for example, someone files a complaint or brings charges against a company, there is a real threat that their reputation is about to be dragged through the mud. And make no mistake, a company’s reputation is one of the most precious commodities it will ever own.

Being able to successfully defend a company’s or an individual’s reputation in a time of crisis is one of the most important outcomes you should expect from a crisis management firm. It is the measuring stick. The impact and effectiveness of their crisis communications response is more than just a service they provide. In many cases, it is a lifeline.

Now let’s take a look at a sequence of events common to many crises, and the critical steps needed to contain them.

Prevailing in a Crisis: 10 Critical Steps

1. Preparation. This is in many ways the most important step, and the one far too many of us neglect. By running a thorough crisis audit during a time of stability, companies would be much better prepared to deal with an impending emergency, and may even eliminate the threat before it occurs. Red Banyan provides this vital planning service to help you develop an effective crisis management plan. We recommend it to all organizations, regardless of size.

2. Response. Don’t delay. Don’t be a turtle. The earliest stages of a crisis are when you have the most options open to you, but that window closes quickly. Have the number of a reputable crisis counselor or PR crisis agency on speed dial. It doesn’t have to be us. But it better be someone.

3. Not sure? Check anyway. When a feeling of panic sets in, many people can’t tell if they’re experiencing an actual crisis situation, or something that will eventually blow over and have no lasting effects. When in doubt, explain your situation to a crisis counselor. Experience plays a role here, and a seasoned crisis professional with proper training can run through a mental checklist and guide you on whether to take action. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Tell it all. The bond between a crisis manager and a client is based on a matter of trust. At Red Banyan, we ensure every client that our conversations are held in the strictest confidence. So, we ask everyone to thoroughly describe their crisis situation and hold nothing back. Revealing every detail without embarrassment is the best way to help us develop a strategy to mitigate your crisis.

5. Own Your Situation. If you’ve been wronged, it may not make sense to seek justice through the court system. In our country, the legal process is extremely slow, and there are quicker, more effective ways to achieve results. Our strategy is to put the power of public relations to work for you. Through our contacts with the press, we can inform all interested parties of our intention to air your grievance and help you obtain redress in short order.

6. Press the Truth. At Red Banyan, this is our mantra. Our agency knows that in today’s 24-hour news cycle, an unsubstantiated rumor or accusation can turn instantly turn into a five-alarm blaze. When you hire our experienced crisis management team, you’re not only getting proven professionals who are adept at influencing public opinion and working with news organizations, you’re getting a crew of firefighters who are ready to put forth the maximum effort on your behalf.

7. Move on from Mistakes. We’re all human, which means we all make mistakes. But that also means there’s a chance for redemption. These days we have a very effective way to change perceptions for the better, and that is with social media. Because you can control what others see, you can take an active role in defining yourself or your organization. With our PR expertise and emphasis on planning, we’ll show you how.

8. Share with Care. Post with Purpose. Commit those two phrases to memory, and think about them whenever you go online. There are countless examples of people and organizations who have carelessly thrown away their good standing in the eyes of the public by not considering the consequences of their online and social media activity. Make sure you’re not one of them.

9. Defend your Reputation. Once a company’s reputation is called into question, it takes an extraordinary amount of effort in order to restore it. When customers lose their faith in you, it is incredibly difficult to bring them back. It takes the will and skill of an effective crisis management team to step into the breech and do everything possible to preserve a reputation before any irreparable damage takes hold. That’s the response you can expect from us.

10. Stay Vigilant. In other words, plan for the unexpected. In today’s media-driven society, it is absolutely essential to have a crisis management plan in place. You need to identify areas of the biggest threat, and assess where you’re likely to have issues before they happen. You need to develop a media protocol, which channels the flow of information from people within your organization to the outside world. And you need to continuously refresh your plan in order for it to remain relevant.

When you’re in a fight, an existential fight for your livelihood or your good name, you need the right people on your team. And choosing the crisis management experts at Red Banyan is one of the smartest decisions you can make.

You can contact us at info@redbanyan.com or by phone at 954-379-2115.