Perhaps the last thing you want when a crisis hits is for your employees, customers, or, even worse, your bosses to find out about it on the evening news.
An integral part of a crisis-response plan is informing various audiences who might be affected by potentially bad news. Yes, we need to spend time responding to allegations and working with the media, but keeping other key audiences informed can often take the sting out of a crisis and get an organization back on the road to recovery much sooner.
Creating an audience list, well before a crisis hits, has become even more important as a variety of bloggers and websites are more than happy to publish memos from CEOs announcing major changes, or even gossip from a disgruntled employee. And there are social media outlets, which can serve as an immediate online bullhorn for advertising bad news.
Also remember that messaging may need to be catered to each audience. What’s appropriate for the boardroom may not be appropriate for customers.
Here are some key audiences who should be kept in the loop when a crisis hits:
Corporate executives. This includes all your bosses, and their bosses. Keep communications high-level. The last thing you want are too many cooks in the kitchen. This group may include potential spokespeople and decision makers. You shouldn’t do anything without their support.
Employees. Next to your corporate executives, this group is most important on the list. Having gone through numerous rounds of layoffs and corporate realignments, I assure you that being informed, even if it is bad news, can keep employees from making matters worse and can keep morale steady.
Board of directors. Though this group may not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, they wield influence with internal and external audiences.
Customers. As with employees, this group is important, and an honest stream of information can take the sting out of bad news. Also, they may be more willing to move on as the crisis subsides. Plus, the last thing you want is for them to get all their information from an unfavorable media report.
Vendors. This group is important because often they are a company’s direct contact with a client. If they know what’s going on, they can answer questions asked by customers or retailers.
Industry analysts. This group is more important with publicly traded companies, and keeping them informed may be required anyway because of disclosure rules.
Financial institutions. Remember, these guys hold the purse strings. Keeping them in the loop will pay off.
Trade associations. Remember, when the media get wind of something wrong, they will want to speak to someone at a trade association. Having this group with the proper messaging will help your company.
Regulators. Trust me, this group is important to keep informed. Even if something is truly bad, showing regulators the changes a company is making could mean lower fines or restrictions, or simply a better working relationship.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.