You can easily insure equipment, buildings, vehicles, and even your employees, but you can’t buy insurance for an asset that may be worth millions. The asset we’re talking about is your company’s brand equity and goodwill.
Further concerning is that a crisis could severely diminish its value in an instant.
Crises happen — from product recalls to workplace violence; from weather events to subcontractor malfeasance. So, when it happens to your company, you must be prepared to address the crisis with a plan of action. One of the first critical steps is communication, and preparing a crisis communication plan can help ensure that a crisis doesn’t unfairly tarnish your company’s reputation and goodwill.
To organize crisis communication for manufacturers and related industries, think of it in three phases:
- Prior to the event
- Hours after the event
- Days, weeks, and months after the event
Here are just some of the strategies and tactics you should employ in each of those phases.
Prior to the event you should determine your triage team and their duties. Your team should include executive management, HR leadership and key operations personnel. From this team you should appoint a media spokesperson, plus a backup. Prepare the team using mock exercises. Have ready
emergency resource contacts, including local police and fire, as well as your legal counsel, PR firm and, as needed, a private security firm. Keep an ongoing log of local media editorial contacts so you can disseminate messaging as you produce it. All of this comes with a caveat, courtesy of master communicator, Mike Tyson, who said, “every boxer has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Hours after the event you and the triage team must first gather all information relevant to the issue to define the crisis. All newsworthy events are made up of the ‘5 Ws’ – who, what, when, where, and why. Another matrix to consider is assessing the situation as “known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns.” These are the elements that will determine your company’s initial response tone (proactive, reactive, silent for the time being, etc.) and be the basis for your crisis communications strategy and key messages. While they should be the guiding light for your response, they should be flexible to change as needed. No two crises are ever the same and very few, if any, remain static.
Secondly, it is important to establish clear ‘dos and don’ts’ such as contacting and cooperating fully with local authorities addressing and investigating the issue, or locking down all employee communications except to immediate family to limit the spread of misinformation and rumors.
Days after the event you must determine what, if anything, has changed since the event and your initial response. Has everything been resolved? How were your initial actions and response received and perceived? Is it time to change your communications strategy or key messaging?
You should use owned, earned, and paid media to disseminate messaging about the issue and, most importantly, what has been implemented to prevent a similar situation happening again. This includes your emails and website (owned media), reporting via credible news sources such broadcast and print/digital news (earned media), and, as necessary, advertising (paid media) to have maximum control of your messaging to a wider audience. Use email to communicate to customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. And to keep your operation running, consider working with competitors or “frenemies” on a short-term basis.
Managing a crisis is a team sport. The pros at Studio/D can help craft a crisis communications plan that will ensure your business and brand recover
s quickly from the unexpected. Remember Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will. Being prepared for a crisis goes a long way to mitigating its overall effects, and this communication will help retain your company’s reputation.
Studio/D is a full-service marketing communications firm working with mid-market industrial and manufacturing clients, together with companies that support the manufacturing ecosystem. We’re a team of “makers” who simplify complex communication challenges with messaging that engages and drives results. Learn more about us at StudioD.agency, or call our president, Scott Dieckgraefe at 314-200-2630.