Ronn Torossian Ronn Torossian 

You’d think most companies and brands would know by now how to handle a crisis situation. Unfortunately, we’re just not there yet.

Crisis communications are vital when problems arise, and regardless of the nature of the event, companies need to be ready to respond to the public, as well as employees and staff leaders without delay.

With social media, every minute a situation goes unanswered matters in losing customer trust and goodwill. Leaders should know their business well enough to be aware what types of special things could happen to cause a crisis. On top of that, consider the more generic things many businesses have faced as the Internet and social media become more prevalent: hacking, security, a stupid comment that translate horribly … those kind of things.

Do you have a plan?

Do you even know who’ll be responsible for taking the reigns and contacting the public and your people?

Do you have some fill-in-the-blanks type of forms that can be quickly completed and used as press releases or public statements?

If you don’t, then start getting your act together now. Look around you: how likely is it that someone in our company will eventually do something stupidly offensive? Or you might have someone who is unhappy with your brand and starts to spout off on social media. They don’t even have to be accurate, they just have to make enough of a fuss and your firm stays quiet for just those few hours too long … it could be the end of a great brand.

When making your plan, look at the different phases of a crisis:

• Before it happens.

• In the middle of it all.

• After the storm has passed.

Before it happens is what you do at this point. Establish a crisis team, look at the possibilities of what could happen and how those things should be handled, develop talking points, and create templates to use. You will also want to decide on the in-charge person and their back-up. Do some brainstorming with your people and outside experts like your corporate attorney, public relations experts, and specialists in your industry. Also, consider spokesperson training for the people who will be in charge.

Once the crisis happens, know who has been impacted and address them as well as other interested parties. Don’t forget the people inside your organization. They need to know what is going on, probably even before the external people receive a response. Now make those responses, be honest, and address the concerns that have been raised. If you need time to figure things, then let people know that. Don’t leave them wondering if you even care. Finally, outline any efforts your company will make to reverse the problem.

Afterward, it’s time to make sure you did a good job. Clean-up any issues still floating around and decide on how to do things better the next time. Keep refining the process and take comfort in the knowledge that you are well-prepared for a crisis.

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Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR firm.