By Michael A. Monahan, President and CEO, Moxē Integrated Marketing
When a crane came down atop a partially finished parking garage in Orlando recently, sending one worker to the hospital, every marketing expert, public relations person and senior executive working in the construction industry should have asked themselves one question: Does my organization have a proper crisis communications plan in place, updated and detailed enough to handle such a situation? More importantly, they should have asked themselves if they were well-equipped enough to execute it like clockwork, along with key leaders and any other team members assigned a role in the plan.
If your organization ever faces a crisis, keep in mind that this turn of events will likely involve three main parts: incident, response and recovery.
Nearly all crises impact at least one of the three “P’s”: people, property and processes. Whether it be environmental health or safety concerns, financial matters, personnel and organizational changes, technology issues or even natural disasters, it is vital to any organization to have a plan in place to properly weather the storm. In my experience, the most simple and effective way to approach this plan is by taking a five-step course of action:
1 – Prepare Before a Crisis
Effective crisis management starts before any crisis occurs. What could go wrong? Do you have a plan? Who is involved? Who are the stakeholders? How do you quickly and effectively assemble clear, articulate messaging? How can you ensure that your messaging discloses the appropriate information to the appropriate audience at the appropriate time? All these questions should be answered in detail prior to any potential emergency.
2 – Identify Your Spokespeople in Advance and Be Sure They Are Media Trained
Your chief executive should almost always be your key spokesperson in times of crisis. The company’s reputation falls on their shoulders. This person should also work collaboratively with their public relations team to ensure thoughtful and consistent messaging. Of equal importance is ensuring that executives who are approved to speak to the media are sufficiently media-trained and updated on key talking points regarding the crisis at hand as well as any crucial industry, legal or other stipulations. This is something that you can accomplish through annual training sessions.
3 – Work in a Time-Sensitive Fashion
Today, the window of opportunity to fully control the message is extremely short. Virtually everyone can access anything at any time with the press of a button. You’ll want to quickly assess the “5 W’s” – who, what, when, where, and why – to ensure you’ve covered all bases in that brief period. Working quickly, while still accurately and ethically, prevents outside narratives from gaining traction.
4 – “Triage” Your Crisis
Not all crises are created equal. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Orlando crane collapse resulted in emergency responders evaluating “close to a dozen” people, with only one requiring hospital treatment. What if the incident resulted in multiple hospitalizations or even multiple casualties? Assess which issues need the most time and attention and act accordingly.
5 – Consider Utilizing Social Media
During a crisis, social media can amplify the noise your company is facing, but it also can be a tool for you to deliver your message directly to your followers without the filter of traditional media.
Acting now can not only prevent crises from damaging your reputation, but it can even prevent crises before they happen. When they do occur, remember the Page Principles from the Arthur W. Page Society, a national association of chief communications officers:
● Tell the truth
● Prove it with action
● Listen to stakeholders
● Manage for tomorrow
● Conduct public relations as if the whole enterprise depends on it
● Realize an enterprise’s true character is expressed by its people
● Remain calm, patient and good-humored
Michael A. Monahan is president and CEO of Moxē Integrated Marketing, Central Florida’s only integrated marketing agency focused on the building, construction, contracting and property services industries.