Unfortunately, sometimes things just happen. Whether it is an unhappy customer, an equipment malfunction or a data breach, events can unfold that undermine an organization’s trust. What an organization does following a crisis event can mean the difference between winning back confidence or turning customers away.

That’s why it’s important to have a crisis communications plan in place. Not only can a comprehensive plan help mitigate harm to an organization’s reputation, it can also set the groundwork for helping those affected. Keep reading for elements to consider in case of a crisis.

An important caveat: Talk is cheap. Match words with actions, as others will want to see how you’re addressing the problem and working to prevent a future occurrence.

Crisis communications mini-plan

A disaster has struck, so what should you do? Here is a crisis communications primer for getting back into the public’s good graces.

  1. Acknowledge the scenario: ‘Fess up when things go wrong. Denying an actual event can bring about even more negative attention and hurt credibility. If it’s a developing situation, share that you’re figuring out what is going on and will provide details once available.
  2. Apologize: Reach out to everyone affected. This might even mean apologizing to someone in-person. Just be sure to act quickly, be genuine and validate their feelings.
  3. Right the wrong: This might be as small as issuing refunds or as big as confronting society’s systemic problems head-on. Just try to make things better for people caught up in the crisis.
  4. Be proactive: Get ahead of the problem by anticipating needs. This might involve speaking up about an issue shortly after its discovery or establishing ways to be contacted for information and help.
  5. Find out what went wrong: Review internal processes and share what you found. If necessary, try working with authorities on any possible investigation.
  6. Preventing future problems: Detail findings and how they will influence any changes to policies and procedures.
  7. Identify a hero: Highlight an employee or someone else that went above and beyond. Show this person gratitude for their help and keeping calm in a tense situation.

These crisis communications plan elements should be a good start when things hit the fan. However, scale your response up or down depending on the situation. Just be sure to exercise transparency, be sincere and strive to help.