The modern-day proverb, failing to plan is planning to fail, could not be more true when it comes to public relations in South Africa. Over the years, I have often been asked to help clients in crisis because they did not have a crisis communications strategy or plan. They also didn’t have an internal communications policy. The former is often seen as a grudge purchase believing that the company will never really be in crisis, the latter is just a massive oversight in my opinion, and something that is hugely lacking in most local businesses.
The news over the past few years should have taught many brands the importance of a crisis communications plan. More current is the highly publicised Ford debacle, which in itself is a living case study of how not to communicate when in crisis. What is often forgotten or under-estimated is the damage to a brand in these situations. It may not occur immediately, but long term negative effects are very possible.
It is also here where you need a very strong internal communications plan, because when in crisis, your employees are an extension of your brand and not only do they need to be ‘on message’, but they also need to be informed with regards to the crisis. That aside, internal communications should be a constant focus within any company, as you hopefully talk to your clients on a regular basis, the same should be done to your employees.
It’s believing that ‘it will never happen to us’ that really gets most companies into a hot, sticky mess. Because if Ford and others have taught us anything, it is this: anything is possible and expect the unexpected.