Tips for Crisis Communications from PCMA

With an unrelenting news cycle comes an unrelenting need for crisis communication preparedness. On Thursday, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) released a step-by-step guide for business events strategists on how to effectively handle crises.

“We all need to think about resilience and reputation—the core of what any business needs to have—and how we build these to counter any threat. What happens at our events has a lasting effect on our brands,” PCMA CEO Sherrif Karamat said in a press release. “This guide helps prepare event organizers to ensure a positive and long-lasting brand reputation.”

The guide advised planners to focus on three areas: potential consequences, company perception and delegation of responsibility. The guide also suggested enlisting professional help and developing contingencies for things that might go wrong.

The guide is divided into strategies for before, during and after a crisis. Here’s how you can handle any event step by step:

Pre-crisis

1. Create clear communication channels with distinct differences in tone for each group you communicate with—whether it be journalists or stakeholders.

2. Having rehearsed a crisis scenario within the last 12 months is helpful for real-life preparation. Practicing also ensures no one forgets routine.

3. Schedule media training with senior leaders and spokespeople annually. These people will be at the forefront of the crisis and need to know how to act when the spotlight shines on them.

4. Design a clear system for dictating what triggers a crisis response and when and how to treat it. This could reflect an actual event or perception of a company.

5. Talk to clients about crisis procedures regularly. Keeping them in the know will facilitate, rather than hinder, a sense of trust when problems arise.

During the crisis

1. Designate a centralized location where decisions can be made and messages can be clearly communicated. Onsite, a “command center” should include a landline phone and laptop with reliable internet. When leaders might be out of the office or overseas, it’s good to have a virtual hub as well.

2. PCMA proposed a helpful RACI model of questions to delegate roles within a team. Think: Who is Responsible? Who is Accountable? Who needs to be Consulted? And who just needs to be Informed of an event?

3. Monitor social media coverage. Journalists often use this as a first source and the public will likely find out the news via this platform. All channels need to be prepared in ample time to respond to conflict.

4. Have pre-scripted messages ready for prompt release. Of course, the unexpectedness of a crisis will warrant modification, but having an outline will make responses timelier.

5. Know what projects can be stalled or adjusted when crisis arises. Then, you can reallocate staff to perform different tasks.

Post-event

1. Learn from your crisis. Reflect on what you could have handled better based on feedback. Communicate these findings with stakeholders.

2. Note how you would are perceived after a crisis. If your company has been transparent and authentic, you will likely be respected for your handling of the situation.

3. Make sure you have a specific team in place devoted to rebuilding trust between you, the community and stakeholders. This can take time and vary by sector, but an outline develops a step-by-step outline to guide the effort.

Dealing with crisis makes a company resilient, better and stronger than before. Resiliency is an essential brand value to have, the guide concluded. You can find the full document here.

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