Success in crisis management depends largely on how quickly and accurately your organization communicates with its stakeholders. Stakeholders have something at risk, and therefore something to gain or lose as a result of your organization’s activity. By using their influence, stakeholders hold the key to the environment in which your organization operates and therefore its subsequent financial and operating performance. Developing a stakeholder relations management strategy around crisis simulations will be a great help to guide the corporate actions when a crisis does hit. This allows you to plan stakeholder communication for crises.
During a crisis your organization has to look at itself from your stakeholders’ perspective because stakeholders will be most concerned at how the crisis incident will affect them. They are expecting your organization to communicate with them, so it is vital to be proactive if possible.
The coronavirus pandemic has added a whole new worldwide dimension to the concept of crisis management, and it has also underlined the vital importance of communicating effectively with stakeholders as management realize the difficult position of their organization resulting from the pandemic. My article explains how to identify what will most likely cause your next organizational crisis.
Also, for the first time, a bigger proportion of crises have sudden causes (51%) versus smoldering causes (49%), according to the US Crisis Management Institute’s (ICM) 2021 annual report of global news coverage of business crises in 2020. This means you now have less time to prepare for possible crisis situations, and therefore it is now even more important to consider what will cause your next organizational crisis. The ICM report is worth reading for an overview of crisis trends, which may help you to plan stakeholder communication for crises.
Typical stakeholder groups to take into account include:
Obviously the key stakeholders vary according to the organization and the circumstances of each crisis. However, the concerns of each broad group can be identified well ahead of any crisis. For instance:
None of the stakeholder groups may start out as antagonistic, but each may quickly become an enemy if the contact is handled badly or ignored. Each group will need consistent, reliable and credible information quickly.
The stakeholder groups affected by the crisis need to be prioritized by their importance to the future of your organization. Even though the news media may be clamoring for attention, it is crucial to attend to the needs of the key stakeholder groups first. Generally it is best to make the key priority your own directors, management and employees because they in turn will have to respond to many other people when news of the crisis spreads.
The main understanding they are seeking is that your management is effectively dealing with the situation, and operations are on the way back to normality. The best overall principle is that those who normally deal with a particular set of stakeholders should continue to communicate with their stakeholders about the crisis. This should be done as soon as possible with information that is as accurate as possible. By looking ahead to consider relationships with your most important groups, you can plan stakeholder communication for crises.
In times of crisis, clear lines of communication should be established to reach employees at all levels and in all locations. A procedure should also be set up for dealing with employee problems relating to the event. In many crises, employee issues emerge as the most important factor.
Questions need to be resolved by the public relations department so you can inform other stakeholders about:
Planning should take into account ways to continually update information during a crisis. For every message to the media, there should be a prior message to employees. These can be distributed in face-to-face briefings by managers and supervisors, in mass meetings in a public venue, via telephone hot lines, text messages, Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, through telephone messages to homes, and by progress statements handed out at gates or entrances, via local radio, by email and on the company website, intranet and extranet.
All information about names, injuries or cause of death must not be released until authorized. The authorization process should be an integral part of the crisis planning, especially at isolated locations.
Your management should have ways to gain emergency access to employee records so that families can be contacted quickly where there are serious accidents. The speed and care with which an organization deals with a family can be a source of great public and media focus.
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