As an agency offering public relations, branding and communications strategy, we’ve seen a lot when it comes to how management teams take on an issue or crisis. It’s common for leadership to feel that issues seemingly under their complete control will not require the same amount of attention or a proactive communications plan as a crisis. That assumption would be incorrect.
By undervaluing an issue, you miss the opportunity to gain what you’re often fighting to build up with audiences — trust, engagement, loyalty and perceived expertise.
If you take on an issue, even in very good times, with greater attention to detail, your company stands to gain improved brand equity to leverage when a true crisis does hit. We see it as your brand 401(k). When you invest in your relationship consistently over and over through a transparent, controlled and proactive communications plan in good times, your audiences will be more loyal and understanding in turbulent times.
An issue is different from a crisis in that you likely have a sense of greater control, seeing the issue coming. It might even be that you feel you don’t need to develop a communications plan for audiences since times are good. Your team might think that the topic might not be important to most audiences or if you talk about it, it might create more work. Examples of such issues include internal organizational change for growth such as new leadership or a merger or acquisition, educating audiences on minor product improvements or service changes, relocations and more. All affect at least a segment of your audiences in some way, even if the effect is minor.
Audiences clients commonly overlook are their own employees, vendors and strategic partners. As your organization has grown, you might not realize the impact a small change may have on audiences you personally do not interact with on a daily basis.
Appearing to be in control while meeting expectations on communications transparency conveys expertise and reinforces trust in your relationships both inside and outside of your organization.
One of the largest stumbling blocks for companies is failing to value the importance of a communications plan with employees throughout the organization and getting in front of information, answering questions even before they are asked. Most employees will want information on how it affects their daily routine or how they serve their clients. Questions can be as simple as, “Where’s my new desk?” or “How should I answer this question?”
When you answer questions before they are asked or help audiences get to answers quickly, the feeling of a smooth-running organization can build a stronger team and brand evangelism. That feeling of “That was easy,” helps you when you have a problem that might not be that easy.
By not getting in front of some very basic communications and releasing information without the proper plan, your teams could be disrupted in ways that affect your bottom line or team morale. The same goes for the general public or current customers.
So where do you start and how do you know what to do when managing an issue in good times?
- Gather your key leadership team, client-facing brand ambassadors / service providers and communications professionals to evaluate the issue and how it will affect audiences. Ask how this issue will affect each audience, what they will want to know and what you need them to know.
- Review each segment of your audience by what the message should be based on their relationship with your organization.
- Create a timeline. Outline all the touchpoints that present an opportunity to clearly communicate.
- Review how to go above and beyond in communications to reinforce key points and improve message recall among audiences.
- Create a communications plan for before, during and after the issue.
- Schedule team reviews of how the plan is working to make adjustments.
- Conduct a post-issue management review to assess how your team worked together and how to improve communications for the future.
If you are facing an issue or crisis, always include your communications manager as soon as possible.
Our team is here to help you in any communications circumstance. If you are not already a client, contact us directly at [email protected].