crisis management Phoebe Netto

Preparing for a crisis

Reputation and trust are the pillars of a strong business. Unfortunately, a crisis can unravel both in the space of a few hours, writes PR specialist Phoebe Netto.


Phoebe Netto

It can often take years, if not decades, to nurture reputation and trust but, in no time at all, a crisis can destroy all of this hard work. The consequences can be dire, from lawsuits to staff walkouts to a major dent in your bottom line. And if the media gets a whiff of the story, the damage can increase exponentially. 

While a crisis might feel like the end of the world, the good news is that there’s actually a lot you can do ahead of time to soften the blow. If you can properly prepare before the crisis rears its head, you’ll be far less likely to suffer fatal damage when it strikes. With a plan in place, your team will know exactly what to do, where to speak and how to move forward when facing potential disaster. 

Collect goodwill ahead of time

One of the most valuable ways a business can help soften a crisis is to build goodwill and a strong reputation over a long period of time. Customers will respond to the crisis of a company they admire in a far more forgiving way than a company they don’t have any feelings towards. 

So how can you go about building that all-important goodwill? The best way to build it over the long term is to consistently act in an authentic way. If your business can ensure that it consistently adheres to its own values, then a positive reputation will automatically flow from there. 

Talk to your customers like they’re humans, and build a rapport through clever content, communication and customer service. Once you’ve built a strong connection with your customers, they’ll be far more likely to accept your apologies. 

Hold a mirror up to your business

Another essential way to prepare is with a crisis management health check. Get your team to run through potential scenarios and consider how your business would react in each situation. By deliberately prodding and poking every potential risk, you’ll be a lot more prepared when an emergency does eventuate. Plus, if your business is behaving in a way that could cause a crisis, then you’ll have the time to reassess your conduct before the outside world catches wind of it.

Of course, just like a fire alarm test, it’s difficult to completely replicate the conditions of a real crisis. It is about being as prepared as you possibly can be.

Crisis management Phoebe Netto business

For some reason, many companies default to saying nothing rather than speaking up during times of crises


Speak up

In order to avoid confusion and mixed messages, it’s important to select a single spokesperson to communicate with the outside world during a crisis. Ensure that every single member of staff knows this, and understands why. If this can be communicated well ahead of time, then when a crisis does begin to stir, all members of staff will know what to do.

In order to make the process as clear as possible, it’s wise to document this information and ensure it is distributed, explained and role-played consistently. Ensure that your chosen spokesperson understands their role well, and that they have been given enough preparation to conduct their response calmly and quickly.

Silence is not an option

The very worst thing a business can do in a crisis is to keep quiet. For some reason, many companies default to saying nothing rather than speaking up during times of crises. This is completely backwards. By staying silent, a gap is formed for onlookers to fill with whatever rhetoric they choose to believe. 

Even if you don’t believe your company is directly at fault, there’s no telling what the outside world believes. Either way, it’s always best to set the record straight in your own words, before Twitter threads and media outlets can do it for you.

It can also be helpful to have a stock statement prepared, which can be adapted to suit the situation. Try writing different statements for different audiences, such as current customers, the wider media and your business’s key stakeholders. 

If you still don’t feel comfortable planning all of this on your own, consider hiring a crisis management support team, who can explain how to word statements and offer support during a crisis.

Communication is key

Of course, some circumstances call for more than a single written statement or apology. In some cases, you will need to set up multiple communication channels to respond to concerns. 

Social media, traditional media, email and even text messages are all great ways to provide regular updates to those affected. Once an issue has been resolved, you can also use these channels to give assurances that you’ve done everything you can do make sure the issue doesn’t happen again. 

Ultimately, no matter how much preparation you do, there’s usually no way to predict a crisis. But by laying the groundwork as much as possible ahead of time, you should be able to turn an epic disaster into a manageable issue that can be resolved quickly. And when you’re staring a crisis in the face, that’s the best scenario you could hope for. 


phoebe netto

About the author

Phoebe Netto is the founder of Pure Public Relations, which offers media relations, issues management and communication services to small and medium-sized businesses, charities and not-for-profits. Phoebe has a reputation for securing excellent coverage for topics that are not obviously newsworthy and an impressive track record for issues management. 

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