Facing the worst? Put the people most affected at the center

Portrait of confident boss looking at employee during interaction at meetingWhether your company is facing a natural disaster or a product recall, the most important thing during any crisis is to put those affected at the center of your communications and plans.

In an IABC #CommChat, communicators were joined by guest John Deveney, ABC, IABC Fellow, an award-winning crisis management expert for DEVENEY, our reputation track sponsor. He shared tips for preparing for and managing a crisis, and emphasized the importance of communicating quickly, frequently and honestly with your audience.

Below are highlights from the conversation. For more, check out IABC’s Storify page.

The importance of planning

The first step for crisis management is to make sure that you have a strong plan in place. Says Deveney: “Preparation is the miracle drug of crisis management.”

The more prepared you are, the more your company can focus on communicating with your audience and taking the steps to alleviate the crisis as quickly as possible.

Deveney recently speak about the importance of planning in the interview below with Biz New Orleans. He shared how his firm benefited from a crisis plan during Hurricane Katrina, and explains how they supported employees during the natural disaster.

Be authentic and transparent

Frequent and authentic communication can mean the difference between a permanently destroyed reputation and one that triumphs during a crisis. “Communicate early and often to show commitment to transparency,” Deveney recommended. “Think of a crisis as an opportunity to change minds.”

He pointed out that if your company doesn’t present themselves as a valuable source of information for your audience to turn to, someone else will fill that void.

“If you attempt to restrict information in a crisis, you’ll lose your ‘go-to’ leadership position,” he warned. “If you restrict information, maybe a competitor or former employee or neighbor will be more willing to speak.”

Listen to everyone—critics and advocates alike

During a crisis, it’s important to acknowledge everyone’s thoughts and opinions, even if they are critical of your company. “Be considerate of others’ opinions in a highly charged environment,” shared Deveney. “Not all comments will be positive.”

He went on to remind the IABC Twitter community that “behind every social media profile is a person, so it is important to remember to be human and listen to your critics.”

It’s also important though not to ignore your supporters. Crises can present opportunities to leverage your brand ambassadors and influencers.

“Influencers are quickly becoming the next evolution in getting your message out to the right audience,” said Deveney. And, he reminds us, they are powerful, too: “Identifying and connecting with influencers is WOM marketing on steroids. Influencers bring built-in, engaged audiences.”

Read the full recap here.

Gain strategies for preparing for and dealing with a crisis in the reputation track, sponsored by DEVENEY.