Be prepared – Communicating in a Crisis

Checklist for responsible Crisis Communication

How do you, as a company, communicate during a crisis? This question is, of course, a sensitive topic with the new Coronavirus, COVID-19 hitting all of us pretty hard right now. Most crises are more limited in their reach, but can be damaging if not handled responsibly. As no one knows exactly what kind of crisis we may face at any given moment, I’ll give you some general tips which will help you deal with any type of crisis.

The bigger companies that act responsibility towards their employees, customers, other stakeholders and even society in general, already will have a crisis communication plan at hand. Today’s reality shows us that most companies don’t and deal with crises as they come. Why? Investing in a crisis communications plan may save you a lot of money on the long run. If you’re not prepared, a failed response to a crisis may damage your internal and external relationships, your reputation and market position more than the crisis itself.

Experience required!

I’ve been active in various capacities in corporate communication and dealt with may crisis situations and complex issues. Let me start by saying that crisis communication is about people: their trust, their loyalty and their anxieties. I’ve dealt with issues like environmental issues (spillage of oils and chemicals), stock market issues (investor relations), viral health issues (HIV policies) and issues confronting mental health institutes, as well as recent cases concerning privacy issues (GDPR).

“Be prepared, be open and be professional.”

Based on my experience in the field of crisis communication, I created an easy-to-use checklist* for crisis communication, which I’m happy to share (link at the end of this post). I hope it will not only help you deal with the current crisis, but also the next ones. Because they will come, though no one knows when, where and how big.

1. Be prepared and informed

Pre-organise your crisis communication now!

  • List the types of crises that may affect your business (internally and externally).
  • Create basic scenarios and timelines for the above.
  • Create a list of people who are and should be involved.
  • Determine in advance who’s in charge during a crisis (crisis manager) and who’s responsible for the communication (spokesperson).
  • Make a list of trustworthy information sources on issues that may affect your business (trade and governmental organisations, media etc.).
  • List of contacts to be informed (all relevant stakeholders, obviously including relevant media).
  • Always act according to your company’s corporate guidelines for communication, press, identity and values. Even during a crisis.
2. Start internally

You’re facing a crisis. First communicate internally.

  • Always share relevant information of the situation (after verification) first to your colleagues. So, start your communication inside your own organisation. If available, you’ll work together with your company’s internal communications specialists and HR department.
  • Use e-mail and if possible/necessary SMS/WhatsApp for an internal statement.
  • Make sure that colleagues are informed how to handle external questions and provide contact details of your company’s spokesperson.
  • Use social media wisely and update your intranet accordingly.
  • Provide regular updates, keep colleagues informed at all times.

“A failed response to a crisis may damage you more than the crisis itself.”

3. React responsibly

How, when and where to communicate?

  • React as soon as you can to a crisis situation (don’t forget to provide contact details of the spokesperson).
  • Create a list of possible FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and a release for the media, concerning the issue. Keep it update as the crisis evolves.
  • If you don’t have all information concerning the issue yet, create a first response stating what you know and that as soon you know more, you’ll provide more information. Provide timely regular updates.
  • Write a press/media release and post on social media.
  • Use social media wisely and refer for updates to your website (which you’ll need to keep updated as you go).
  • Avoid rumours, monitor social media responses.
  • Do not overcommunicate!
  • Don’t tell more than you need, and certainly not more than you can.
  • If available, provide visuals to the issue (you want to be in control of what is published as much as possible).
  • In all communication, refer to the designated spokesperson (if that’s not you), not to the crisis manager of management team. The spokesperson will coordinate interviews and update both the crisis manager and the management team.
  • Make sure the spokesperson is always fully informed, trained, experienced and with authority.
4. Be consistent and clear

Shape, target and time your communication.

  • Be clear, to the point, consistent, respectful and honest. Use professional writing and language skills, provide professional photography and visuals. You want to be taken seriously, right?
  • Be media savvy. Make sure your communication fits the needs of those you reach out to, be it internally or externally. Understand what journalists and bloggers need from you.
  • If you’re not sure how to deal with content professionally, contact a PR or crisis communications specialist**.
  • Never say “No comment”, but say “I’ll come back to your question as soon as possible”. And do it!
  • Also, don’t try to cover up the issue. It will always backfire badly.
  • Be human and compassionate. Realise that, in most cases, people and their families are affected personally and are looking for your company’s reassurance. If you do that well, you will improve your reputation. If not, you may suffer long-term damage.
  • Don’t get personal and respect privacy guidelines (in Europe: GDPR).
  • Be visible, available and accessible. If you or your company is not available, the public, the media and other stakeholders will get the information elsewhere (social media). That is in no one’s interest.
  • Do what you promise and adhere to deadlines. Remember, in times of crisis, your trustworthiness is even more at stake than it normally is.

“Crisis communication is about people: their trust, their loyalty and their anxieties.”

Use the best skills

Above I’ve listed some vital points to consider before and during a crisis situation. In short: be prepared, be open and be professional. As for specific communications skills, I would advise you to get in touch with a specialist. They can help you develop a crisis communication plan, provide media training or provide practical support while facing any type of crisis.

Crisis communication is one of the more challenging (and rewarding) areas of my business, and I would gladly give you some more guidance. Please feel free to get in touch with me!

*You can download the checklist as a pdf file here

Finally and on a personal note: please follow the official guidelines provided by your government to keep yourself and all those around you safe and healthy!

🇪🇺 One year in Portugal! 🇵🇹

Clique aqui para a versão portuguesa!

My ‘regular’ international communications projects this first year involved complex communications issues: branding, brochures/website communication and strategic communications projects concerning physical safety, health and GPRT/Privacy. As a rule I don’t communicate details concerning my work for clients. If you like to know more, please ask or check out the pages on this web site.  

This Summer I’ll spend some quality time on my special development projects. You could call them my ‘pet projects’, as they are closest to my heart.

They are:

  • the BeOne Inclusion Program
  • and the TakeOff International Enterprise Support Program.

Though the focus of both projects is different – the first program concerns personal development and the second is about business development – both use the same fundamentals.

You’ll find these fundamentals in my international communications projects too. They are:

  • relevance;
  • authenticity;
  • and a long-term approach.

Check this website and click the respective project names in the link above to find out more about them. Or please call me (+351 936 814 043).

Enjoy the Summer!

Alfred

PS: I forget to tell you about my ongoing photography projects. Ah well, next time!

Alfred Jansen starts international communications activities in Portugal

Continuing his longstanding career in international communication, today Alfred Jansen has officially moved his activities to Portugal. From his studio in Campolide in Lisbon he will serve both his existing clients in other European countries as well as new clients based in Portugal.

Alfred: “It took a couple of years of research to take this step into Portugal. I’m convinced I can add value. It is a challenge I’m happy to take on!”.

Alfred Jansen has a history as a communicator in a diverse range of areas: automotive, transport, logistics, ICT, GDPR/Privacy, tourism, fashion, healthcare and inclusivity. He is equally at home in a business-to-business environment as in consumer-related businesses. In addition to the communications services (producing content and media), he’s got a great track record in training, events and presentations.

In Portugal, Alfred focuses on the following business areas:
  • Internationally operating multinational companies and organisations in Portugal;
  • Portuguese companies with cross-border activities (or ambitions);
  • In addition, he sees a lot of potential with start-ups, multicultural and tourist-focused activities, as well as with communications agencies looking for cross-border opportunities.

Depending on the needs, his approach will be strategic, hands-on and result-driven. Originating from the Netherlands, combined with a mixed English and German background, Alfred will look to connect, translate and educate in order to internationalise communication. Being a non-native Portuguese, he co-operates with Portuguese experts where possible.

Specialised communication for ambitious businesses

Alfred: “Having dealt with many different types of companies (and governmental and non-governmental organisations) in different areas and countries, I’m now offering my services to all ambitious, quality-driven businesses in Portugal.

Contrary to what many believe, communication is not only about communicating. Because of my business background, for me it’s very much about making communication work.”

Contact

In a short video presentation, Alfred explains his drive into Portugal. He can be reached via the website alfred-jansen.com, via e-mail at alfred@alfred-jansen.com, via social media or simply by phone on +351 936 814 043.

What happens in Portugal, stays in Portugal?

Well, of course not. Being one of the leading countries of the European Union, Portugal has a lot to offer and to tell abroad. That is a main reason for international communications specialist Alfred Jansen to move his work to Portugal. Now based in Lisbon, he focuses on multinational companies with a seat in Portugal and Portuguese companies with activities and/or ambitions abroad.

Are you dealing with other European countries? Then you’ve experienced that communication is not always the same as it is at home. Even if you consider Europe to be united, business is not as synchronised as it could be. Companies from outside Portugal with a seat here, know the issues. They are not only cultural and language differences, but many more subtle aspects of communication.

Alfred Jansen has, for most of his career, worked on an international level. He sees many opportunities for growing the international activities of companies based in Portugal.

The right tone

Are you managing a company in Portugal? Do you deal with other nationalities? Then you’ll know how hard it is to set the right tone, either with your international staff or customers. Communication is a vital aspect of all your activities, from marketing and publicity to human relations and customer relations. Sometimes you need to refine the strategy, sometimes you need to develop the right tone in how you communicate to your audiences.

Adding value

Alfred Jansen has always focused on results. In other words: communications activities should always add value. In his words:

“Communication is not merely communicating, it is making communication work.”

In Portugal he distinguishes three areas where he’ll really add value:

  • Internationally operating multinational companies and organisations in Portugal
  • Portuguese companies with cross-border activities (or ambitions)
  • Individual communications training (Be One) for managers

Depending on the company’s needs, his approach will be strategic, hands-on and result-driven.

Specialisations

Having dealt with many different types of companies (and governmental and non-governmental organisations) in different areas, Alfred offers his services to all ambitious, quality-driven businesses. You can check out his profile here, and you’ll find that his main specialties are in automotive, transport, logistics, ICT, GDPR/Privacy, tourism, fashion, healthcare and inclusivity, both business-to-business and consumer-related. In addition to the communications services (producing content and media), he’s got a great track record in training, events and presentations.

Personal communication

The best way to communicate is by personal contact. So, please get in touch for talks and a short but effective presentation so we can get to point as soon as possible. Share your international business ambitions with Alfred Jansen and he’ll show you how you can get your communication on a higher, more international level.

Call +351 936 814 043 or contact Alfred online.