Have you ever experienced a moment when you’ve realized that your message has been completely derailed?
It happens across industry, organizations and in the case of this first week of the Nova Scotia provincial election, political parties alike.
It started much like any other election campaign in Canada. On July 17, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin visited the Lieutenant Governor, kicking off the beginning of the Nova Scotia election campaign. Within days, changes to the candidate roster, controversial missteps on social media and all sorts of mischief have rippled to the surface. These incidents are now dominating social and traditional media conversation surrounding the election.
For us here at NATIONAL Atlantic, these are recent examples of how easily your well-crafted message is derailed during crisis if you’re not prepared. The message in this case being, “Vote for us—we’re better than the others.” It also emphasized the need for all organizations to have a comprehensive, disciplined, crisis communications strategy.
There’s an opportunity in every crisis, so let’s use this week’s election campaign to reflect on six best practices for when crisis hits the fan:
1. Stay calm
This seems the most obvious of the bunch yet the hardest one to follow. When you’re responding to a crisis—whether it’s an internal controversy or an emergency situation—you need to be calm, confident and in control of what you’re saying.
2. Know the facts
It’s imperative to quickly get to the truth: What happened? What is the timeline of events? Who was involved? What actions have we taken? Know your facts and be sure they are without question.
3. Develop a key message
What is the most important message you want your audience to know and build your strategy around it.
4. Be proactive
Despite our greatest desire, waiting and hoping nobody asks is not always an effective method to respond to crisis. Waiting in the digital age of social media allows a message to go viral. Allowing media availability or a press conference shows you want to be transparent and is an opportunity to get the facts- even the bad ones- out in the open. This is about controlling the narrative and making sure your most important audiences hear the news from you first.
5. Anticipate questions
Make a list of questions you know the media will ask, including every question that makes you feel uncomfortable. Just because you don’t want to answer doesn’t mean they won’t be coming your way.
6. Be empathetic
Always put yourself in your audiences’ shoes. How you would feel about this situation will help you respond with the appropriate amount of sensitivity. Be true to your organizational values.
When crisis strikes, there’s an instinct to close ranks and go radio silent. Take it from us here at NATIONAL: those organizations that fare the best in a crisis are those that are prepared for the worst, act quickly, and communicate to their key audiences with clear, consistent messages.