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By Amanda Larson Outreach

Public Relations 101: Crisis Communications

5 minute read
Public Relations 101: Crisis Communications Featured Image

As a financial advisor dealing with crisis situations can pop up more often than you may think. And unfortunately, they are usually somewhat of a surprise and can take many different forms. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster, and for those that do, only 29% were still operating after two years. This last post in our PR series for financial advisors focuses on do’s and don’ts to mitigate and manage a crisis situation.

1. DO establish a cadence of communication beforehand

Don’t wait for something to go wrong to establish an open line of communication between you and your clients. Instead of being reactionary, take advantage of the opportunity to share your expertise and educate your clients through communication vehicles like a newsletter. Building trust and relationships not only with your clients but other brand stakeholders as well is essential ahead of a crisis situation and should be ongoing.

2. DO Have a plan

Having a solid crisis communications plan in place will help stop threats from escalating. Think of your crisis plan like an insurance policy – they may sit on a shelf and collect dust but when you need them, they’re there. The best crisis plan will prepare you to handle the worst situation. Your plan should include the following:

  • Your team: Identify your crisis team and spokesperson. Ideally, your CEO along with any legal counsel should makeup your crisis team. Your spokesperson should be someone who able to speak on the company’s behalf and is comfortable speaking with and answering questions from the media. It’s also a good idea to define and establish each team member’s role in the event of a crisis to move things along quickly.
  • Your audience: Know your audiences – both internal and external. This includes employees, clients, the community, media and regulatory agencies.
  • Your messages: Identify three key messages crafted for each segment of your audience.
  • Your systems: Outline what systems are in place to notify and address all audience types of the situation and who is in charge of doing so.

3. DO Communicate Promptly

The first 24 hours of a crisis is crucial. In order to stay in control of the situation when a crisis hits it’s important to respond as quickly as possible to avoid even more damage. So be sure to respond on a timely manner but also be factual. You want to disseminate accurate information and respond to any false information right away. Keep your messages simple ensuring that all audience types can clearly understand your stance from clients to reporters and the general public.

4. Do speak the truth

If you take anything away from this crash course on crisis PR let it be this: don’t bury bad news, it will get out eventually. Never “spin” your story and change the facts. Making excuses and pointing fingers is the worst possible reaction. Instead, focus on fixing the problem and communicate to stakeholders how you’re mitigating the issue. If you are faced with a situation where you don’t know an answer simply say so. Because after all, that’s the truth.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Staying calm when a crisis hits can be difficult. Whether from lawyers, public relations specialists or other advisors don’t be afraid to ask for help. Strong leadership is key in a crisis and being a strong leader means leveraging all resources, even if they’re external.

Check out the rest of our PR series: