Photo: Sunset, Randers, Denmark. Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene. Dual license: GNU Free Documentation License, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5
It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN your organization will face a crisis. Are you ready to help your organization through it?
Be prepared with a powerful and quick response to protect and enhance your brand’s reputation when the crisis hits. Register today for “Be Your Best When Facing the Worst,” a crisis communication workshop sponsored by the Las Vegas Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.Read on to learn more about communication expert and workshop presenter Paul Barton, ABC and how his workshop can help you to prepare your organization for a crisis:
Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: What is your experience in serving companies in crisis situations?
Paul Barton, ABC: I have helped create crisis communication plans, dark websites and practice drills for PetSmart, APS, Phelps Dodge, America West Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce. I’ve have helped companies get through a wide variety of crisis situations including employee deaths on the job, major business disruptions, shootings and natural disasters. One of my more unusual experiences was not only coordinating communications, but also helping to coordinate supplies for search and rescue dog teams at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of 9-11.
PLB: What are some common missteps organizations take during a crisis?
PB: The top three missteps I see are:
(1) Some businesses think they need to wait to get all the facts verified before they say anything to the press, their customers and their employees. What they should be doing is getting out in front of a crisis right away and establishing themselves as the most credible information source. It’s OK to say “We don’t have all the facts yet, but we are aware of this incident, and we are making sure that all our employees and customers are safe and sound. We promise to keep you updated as soon as we have all the facts.”
(2) In the rush to get information out, some companies forget the importance of addressing the emotional side. Until people know that you care, they don’t care what you know. You need to establish that you care early on with a statement such as “Our immediate concern is for the safety and well-being of our employees and our customers. Our hearts go out to the victims.”
(3) Some organizations are so focused on getting statements to the news media that they forget about their own employees. It is quite often the employees who will determine how fast and how fully an organization will recover from a crisis. And it is employees who are the face of the organization to the customers. They can be great and credible advocates for the organization if they have the right information.
PLB: What is the most helpful action an organization can take to prepare for a crisis?
PB: Practice, practice, practice. Many organizations have a plan, but they don’t conduct regular drills. Phone numbers and contacts get out of date, pre-gathered supplies get lost, and key players don’t know where to go and what to do. A failure to prepare can turn a crisis into a catastrophe.
PLB: What are the top things that communication professionals can learn from your upcoming crisis communication workshop?
(1) How to create powerful crisis messages on the fly that not only protect your brand image, but actually enhance your brand reputation.
(2) How to turn social media into a third-party advocate and powerful listening tool during a crisis.
(3) The role good employee communication can play in helping a company to recover more quickly and fully.
(4) How to be at your best when your company is facing the worst by having a good plan on which to rely.
PLB: How is your workshop structured?
PB: There is interactive learning and hands-on work. Attendees will come away with a working crisis communication plan template and many samples that they can take back to their offices and easily develop into a full crisis communication plan for their organizations or incorporate into existing plans.
PLB: What other types of workshops, products and services do you provide?
PB: In addition to the crisis workshop, I can assist clients with writing the plan. My services include consulting, writing, editing, communication audits and project support. I can offer fresh ideas or just an extra pair of hands. And with a wide network of videographers, graphic designers and event planners that I partner with, no project is too big or too small. I also offer several products on my website including a step-by-step guide for strategic communication planning and a book on internal communication.