Every organization is vulnerable to crises. They often happen quickly and unexpectedly, creating emotionally charged, high-risk situations for businesses. The way an organization responds has a long-term impact on its brand reputation.
Partnering with a neutral, third-party resource for crisis planning and management gives organizations the objectivity needed to respond and recover effectively. Objectivity is challenging to achieve internally, given the personal and emotional nature of crises. Working with a crisis management firm helps organizations prepare, predict what’s ahead, identify gaps and navigate crises with objectivity, purpose and clarity.
Consider the following capabilities, skills and expertise to find a partner that can help your business successfully plan for and manage crises.
1. Assess speed and agility
A crisis changes rapidly and requires decisions and responses in real-time. The speed at which a situation moves and changes can be overwhelming and cause uncertainty and anxiety for everyone involved, including the leaders managing it. Choose a firm that can lead through the uncertainty by acting with the same speed and agility as the crisis. This provides clear and stabilizing direction at an otherwise turbulent time.
Ensure the team you’ll be working with is accessible, flexible, proactive and equipped to predict shifts in the marketplace. Assess this by checking with client references.
2. Look for experienced communicators
Strong communication is foundational to successful crisis management. Organizations use communication to provide clear, timely and factual information, engage stakeholders, and move the company forward. Experienced communicators know how to develop and activate strategic communication plans that enable business continuity, support compliance and impact business objectives.
Crises have far-reaching impacts that affect a variety of internal and external stakeholders. Search for a crisis management firm that knows how to engage stakeholders across a wide range of channels, including traditional PR and digital. Review the firm’s service offerings and client case studies to confirm the team has comprehensive communication experience. Check whether the firm has won industry awards or been featured as communication thought leaders through publications or speaking opportunities.
Change management communication is also important as businesses begin to recover from crises. Teams experienced in both crisis and change management communication are well equipped to support organizations through every phase of crisis management and business continuity.
3. Assess their relationship-building skills
Crises are highly emotional times for organizations and their leaders. Effective crisis management firms know how to step into a difficult situation and quickly build trust and rapport across all levels of the organization. Consider whether the team you’ll be working with feels like a good culture fit and whether you trust them to navigate the organization and the situation successfully.
Turn again to client references to assess this. Ask references whether the firm was able to build strong, trusted relationships across the organization, particularly with leaders. Partners that successfully build relationships with leaders can more effectively coach and train them on how to embrace their important roles as crisis spokespeople. Training should include helping leaders model the behaviors expected across teams.
4. Evaluate crisis experience
Crises are taxing, and their dynamic nature makes them challenging to navigate. Crisis management firms should have experience leading other organizations through every crisis phase and collaborating with C-suite leaders.The team’s ability to work alongside leaders is critical, given the significant role leaders play in crisis preparedness and response.
Experienced firms also know what works well during a crisis and what doesn’t, including common pitfalls and effective stakeholder engagement strategies. Evaluate a firm’s crisis management experience by:
- reading case studies,
- checking whether team members have crisis certifications
- asking questions about the team’s experience working with C-suite leaders and
- checking whether they’ve been recognized for their thought leadership through industry awards, bylines in publications and speaking opportunities.
5. Ensure values are aligned
Values are the behaviors that organizations and their employees agree to live by every day, and they’re particularly important in times of crisis. Organizations that have a clear purpose and values have greater clarity on how to move the business forward through a crisis. Crisis management firms with a strong purpose and values understand the importance of these business principles and know what it takes to reevaluate or realign to them.
The firm’s values also indicate what principles and behaviors it prioritizes in relationships. Review a firm’s values to determine if they align with your organization’s values. Choosing a values-aligned partner speeds up the onboarding and ramp-up process because it takes less time to get everyone working together toward the same goal.
Organizations that plan for unexpected business events by hiring a crisis management firm will be in a strong position to quickly manage and resolve issues while sustaining trust and protecting their brands. Beehive readies organizations for potential crises and grounds response plans in their purpose, mission and values. We use the power of communication to help businesses respond, recover and restore — while maintaining business continuity and moving the business forward.
About Ayme Zemke, SVP, Client Service
Ayme Zemke leads client service at Beehive Strategic Communication and is a certified crisis communication leader. She has more than 20 years of strategic communication experience and has helped many organizations prepare for and respond to crisis situations in a way that sustains trust and supports business continuity. Ayme’s ability to understand people’s needs and make meaningful connections helps her move businesses forward with purpose. She often speaks and writes about crisis communication, serves on the Minnesota PRSA Board of Directors and has been recognized by PR News as a Top PR Professional and PR Team Leader.