5 Key Points to a Crisis News Release
Effective crisis communication is a crucial element in effective crisis management and should assume a central role from the start. It establishes employee and client confidence in the ability of a company to deal with a crisis and to bring about a rapid resolution. Effective crisis communication is also integral to the larger process of information exchange aimed at eliciting trust and promoting understanding of the relevant issues or actions.
Within the limits of available knowledge, effective crisis communication aids such efforts by:
- Guiding appropriate decisions, actions and behaviors
- Improving knowledge and understanding
- Encouraging collaboration and cooperation
- Building, maintaining or restoring trust
Firestorm recommends following the Preaction model – PREDICT.PLAN.PERFORM.® – in dealing with emergency/crisis communications:
PREDICT – Who is the audience & what are their concerns?
PLAN – Tailor message, messenger, and media format to the stakeholder
PERFORM – Focus on the 3 key messages
Successful crisis communication requires a written crisis communication plan prepared and endorsed by the Company’s senior management in advance. A crisis communication plan will:
- Describe and designate staff roles and responsibilities for different emergency/crisis scenarios.
- Designate who is accountable for leading the response.
- Designate who is responsible for implementing various actions.
- Designate who needs to be consulted during the process.
- Designate who needs to be informed about what is taking place.
- Designate who will be the lead spokesperson and backup for different scenarios.
- Include procedures for information verification, clearance and approval.
- Include procedures for coordinating with important stakeholders.
- Include procedures to secure the required human, financial, logistical and physical support and resources (such as people, space, equipment and food) for crisis communication operations during a short, medium and prolonged emergency/crisis event (24 hours a day 7 days a week if needed).
- Include policies and procedures regarding employee contacts from the media.
- Outline well thought out contingency plans for various scenarios.
- Include regularly checked and updated media contact lists (including after-hours news desks).
- Outline exercises and drills for testing the crisis communication plan as part of larger preparedness and response training.
- Identify subject-matter experts (for example, Firestorm, university professors) willing to collaborate during an emergency/crisis, and develop and test contact lists (day and night); know their perspectives in advance.
- Identify target audiences.
- Contain fact sheets, question-and-answer sheets, talking points and other supplementary materials for potential scenarios.
- Contain procedures for posting/updating information on a website.
- A key step in effective crisis communication is the development of clear, concise messages that address stakeholder questions and concerns. One of the most powerful tools for preparing clear and concise messages is the message map.
A message map consists of detailed and hierarchically organized information that can be used to respond to anticipated questions or concerns. It is vital that key messages be concisely stated if they are offered to the news media as sound bites or quotes. Information to be included in a news release should be prepared in advance. A news release tells reporters the basic who, what, when, where, why and how of an event. Most importantly, a news release should quickly convey the vital information.
- Identify what you most want the target audience to know
- Identify what you need to do to correct misperceptions or erroneous information
- Prepare three key messages that communicate your overarching (core) talking points
- Prepare supporting message points for each key message
- Develop supporting material for each message (for example, visuals, examples, quotes, personal stories, analogies, endorsements by credible third parties, or directions for obtaining additional information);keep messages simple and short
Last, remember to always document in writing the recommended messages and supporting material and practice, practice, practice delivery. Want to learn more? Download Critical Decision Support – Perspectives on Business Continuity Crisis Management