How to manage crisis communications

By Georgia Ward

The importance of being prepared in a crisis cannot be underestimated, whether you are a venue, hotel or destination.

As a specialist hospitality consultancy, we have handled internal and external communications in the wake of a range of situations for our clients, including terrorism threats, fires, alleged food poisoning, guest injuries, police investigations, and, currently, Coronavirus.

To limit reputational damage and maintain business continuity, a comprehensive yet simple communications plan should be put in place to ensure all audiences are communicated with effectively.

Here are the key points to remember for effective crisis communications:

Prepare

  • Always have a plan in place that identifies the chain of communications, media spokespeople, specific roles and the stakeholders
  • Make sure it is regularly updated with contact details – both for in and out of hours
  • Engage with your PR agency and make them aware of your contingency plans
  • Hold regular training sessions with different scenarios and consider if professional media training for key personnel is necessary

Respond

  • Quickly gather as much information as possible to establish facts
  • If all the facts aren’t available immediately, a holding statement should be written to highlight that you are aware of and dealing with the situation
  • Update your nominated media liaison, whether it’s your company spokesperson or PR agency, with the key facts, contingency plans and current statement
  • Prepare and issue responses for stakeholders – staff, clients, investors and suppliers
  • Prepare a media statement with the most up-to-date information or official advice
  • Be consistent with messaging for all audiences, internal and external, for transparency and clarity

Monitor

  • Set up media monitoring and/or utilise free tools such as Google Alerts and TalkWalker to receive any related news articles, social media posts or video as they are published online
  • If you receive questions on social media, respond with the holding statement or most up-to-date media statement
  • Review marketing plans for content that might be insensitive or inappropriate in the current situation

Assess

  • Once the crisis is alleviated, review your communication channels and ensure all statements are up-to-date and correct, and any stakeholders are updated with the latest situation status
  • Review engagement by media, stakeholders and potential audiences and assess brand reputation
    • What lessons have been learnt? What worked? What didn’t?
    • What updates need to be made to your crisis communications plan? Do you have the right spokesperson trained? Do you have the contact details for the key stakeholders? Did the process work or do you need to make amendments?
  • Develop and implement a strategy to reinstate your brand position, reassuring your stakeholders, industry and media that business is back to normal