Crisis Communications & Issues Management

The advent of social media has permanently changed the way organisations respond to an issue or crisis.

Research shows that the first few hours of a crisis are critical to a company’s reputation and the 24/7 news cycle is influenced increasingly by citizen journalism and online conversations – from a disgruntled customer to people banding together to rally for or against a cause. This means that it’s often social media channels that are setting the agenda for mainstream media and without your organisation’s participation at these early stages your company or brand’s reputation can be damaged.

In this instant information age, organisations need to factor in the changing nature of response times – tweets and Facebook posts often lead with the news during and immediately after a crisis.

All good communications is planned and the first step we recommend to clients when developing an issues management and crisis communications plan is to undertake a comprehensive risk analysis.

This involves identifying the situations that could harm your brand in the eyes of its customers, employees and other stakeholders and helps inform the development of an issues management plan. Potential risks include industrial accidents, product recalls, criminal activity by an employee, weather and other disaster events impacting on business continuity, activists spreading misinformation and redundancies.

An issues management plan typically incorporates processes for recognising and reporting issues as they arise, establishing a Crisis Management Team and associated roles, determining media and social media protocols, developing contact lists and draft media response materials, and clarifying post-crisis action steps for the main identified risks.

In some instances however we know there’s no time to plan and you have to hit the ground running.

With Convergence you’re in safe hands. Our consultants have helped countless individuals, companies and organisations to manage a diverse range of issues, including significant crises involving national media attention.

Most of what we do occurs behind the scenes and frequently requires us to prepare company managers and other individuals for high pressure media interview situations. Convergence specialises in media training and recommends this occurs as part of any organisation’s reputation management strategy. We also recommend ‘annual refresher’ courses for key managers and other spokespeople to ensure they are always response-ready in the event of a media issue.

Student Volunteer Army and Christchurch Earthquakes

“Having Convergence on board following the 22 February earthquake was pivotal to the development and success of the Student Volunteer Army. In the weeks following New Zealand’s worst natural disaster, Convergence provided the SVA with a communications advisor 24 hours a day at no cost to us. Communications is essential to the success of recovery efforts following a crisis situation. Convergence helped us send clear, concise messages through the media to the general public to source supplies, locate volunteer work, keep volunteers motivated and inform the public of our systems. The Convergence team helped us achieve local, national and international media coverage and develop long-term relationships with both the media and governmental agencies and representatives. I look forward to working with Convergence as we develop the SVA model at other universities and colleges across New Zealand, Japan and the USA.”

– Sam Johnson, Founder, Student Volunteer Army.