How can companies prepare and train their team for crisis scenarios?

4 minute read

Kathryn Kelly

It is more important than ever for organisations of all types and sizes to set aside the time to formulate comprehensive crisis media plans. In this blog, our PR Account Manager, Kathryn Kelly, examines the steps that need to be taken to avert a communications disaster.

In the unpredictable waters of business, storms can arise at any moment. From natural disasters to financial downturns, from scandals to cyber attacks, crises come in many forms and can strike with little warning. The ability of a company to weather these storms often depends on one crucial factor: preparedness. In this blog, we will look at how companies should prepare for crisis scenarios, exploring the strategies they need to employ to navigate through turbulent times.

Assess your risks:  Imagine worst-case scenarios.

There are several tools on the market which a marketing agency or a business can subscribe to.

But I personally consider good old-fashioned horizon scanning is the best approach, and it is something we specialise in at Chalk & Ward. We believe that this approach is beneficial because it gives companies a reliable framework from which to respond to a given crisis.

When going down this route, our usual first step is to visit an organisation for an in-depth strategy session to analyse internal and external environments.

This process will priortise the most likely scenarios and the worst that can happen and plan for each. Without being melodramatic, it is essential to let your imagination run away with you. During my career, I have been involved in sessions where some truly terrifying scenarios have been conjured up.

On one occasion, I was working with a well-known Devon construction company and we established that their worst fear was one of their cement lorries careering out of control while descending the steep hill into Teignmouth town centre and crashing into a block of flats at the bottom. 

It was extremely rewarding to see the confidence levels of the directors soar as we worked through every aspect of this appalling, imagined tragedy.

More recently, the Chalk & Ward PR team were tasked by a well-known charity with handling the internal and external communications surrounding the closure of one of their facilities which was a lifeline for people of all ages experiencing a range of physical and learning challenges.

We knew that the fall-out from this story was going to make local and possibly, national news and planned in minute detail for this eventuality, organising a chain of command, writing press releases and statements, and being on hand to act as a temporary press office when the media came to call.

Build your team.

After formulating a plan, the next step is to build a crisis team that includes your spokespersons, media relations, and other key staff from various locations, functions, and levels. Your spokespersons should be credible, confident, and consistent in messaging, style, language, and presentation.

Once a crisis unfolds, we can assist our clients by monitoring the situation and advise accordingly. 

We use sophisticated media monitoring systems to distribute press releases and track how communications are being received and reported by news outlets. This helps us to spot if we are losing control of the narrative and if so, take steps to remedy the situation.

We would also advise companies of all sizes to undertake the following:

Train your people.

It is essential to train your media relations team and spokespersons on the skills and techniques they need to communicate effectively during a crisis. This includes how to prepare and deliver key messages, how to manage tough questions, and how to use different media channels. They should be provided with resources such as templates, background information, and cuttings on any previous crises or negative news stories in case the journalist mentions these in an interview.

Engage your audience.

Communicate proactively and with transparency during the crisis. You should concentrate on the media platforms your target audience trusts and prefers, whether this is in the form of a traditional press release, social media posts, blogs, or videos.

You should address concerns and provide timely, succinct information until the crisis is resolved. Again, this essential part of crisis communications is something we can undertake for you.

It is important to acknowledge mistakes or wrongdoing on the part of the company or an individual, apologise, and outline the actions that will be taken to resolve the crisis and prevent a comparable situation from happening again.

Keep policies under review.

Formally update policies once a year. Analyse whether the chain of command is still working. Make any necessary changes and take time out of the working week to hold drills and refresher days.

In conclusion, navigating through crisis scenarios requires careful planning, preparation, and coordination. By conducting risk assessments, establishing crisis management teams, developing communication strategies, investing in training and technology, fostering collaboration, and continuously evaluating and improving their response capabilities, companies can enhance their resilience and ability to weather any storm that comes their way. 

With great PR, you control the narrative. Our well-considered PR campaigns can really boost your profile, engage audiences and achieve media coverage. To learn more about PR and the services we provide, don’t hesitate to email us or call the team on 01392 666291.

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