A crisis, be it natural disaster or man-made, can emerge at any time. It may leave an organization unprepared and, at times, paralyzed by its onset. These unforeseen internal and external events can easily drive an organization to assume a defensive stance and turn the most proactive business into a reactive entity as it moves to protect its employees, its image and reputation. In times of crisis, an effective communications strategy is inevitably an essential component in the successful management or mitigation of that crisis. Organizations could make ethical decisions to accept their responsibility, uphold accountability, enable access to information, and provide humanitarian assistance when there are victims involved. These steps will also impact the process of image restoration and post-crisis organizational revival. If the ethical principles have been conscientiously and effectively been followed, a lot of collateral damage to the reputation of organization can significantly be controlled. The value of perceiving a crisis as an opportunity is that it encourages reflection and learning through an evaluative procedure. Likewise, a learning process has the potential to bring more effective responses to adverse conditions and help prevent future crises. Mistakes and errors are an integral part of life. Admit to them when warranted and mollify the situation quickly. You’ll be in a better position to admit you’re wrong than allowing others including your competitors to drive the narrative by pointing out your flaws. Best practices can be described as a method or technique that has consistently shown superior results to those achieved with other means and has improved the results of the entity. They serve to maintain quality, present useful guidelines for action to help companies achieve best results, improve the performance of the organization, and obtain competitive advantage. The good news is that much of the work around crisis communications can be performed prior to the catastrophe. Just as the need for crisis communications is virtually inevitable, the reasons that most companies would need to employ crisis communications tactics are also fairly predictable. It isn’t difficult to guess what type of worst-case scenarios the communications leaders at Boeing stay up late at night worrying about. From huge, multibillion-dollar conglomerates to small shops, all businesses should take note of these crisis communications best practices so they are prepared when unfortunate events knock at their door. The more thoughtful, deliberate crisis planning and analysis you perform during a calm, business-as-usual setting, the less decision making you’ll have to go through on the fly during the tense, fast-moving and chaotic swirl of events that is the crisis. Identify a few of the most likely crisis scenarios, key messages, scripts, spokespersons, and crisis chain of command ahead of time. Document everything in a crisis plan. Even if you never have to invoke the plan into action, its mere existence will provide peace of mind to company executives, and hopefully ensure job security for marketing and communications leadership. Mistakes and errors are an integral part of life. Admit to them when warranted and mollify the situation quickly. You’ll be in a better position to admit you’re wrong than allowing others including your competitors to drive the narrative by pointing out your flaws. If you address the problem immediately, you send the message that your company is actively searching for a solution. When communicating mistakes to the market, be sure to include these three essential elements: what happened, why it happened; and how you’re responding to address it. Once a crisis hits, respond to it immediately and honestly. If you don’t jump in to provide the facts and control the narrative, the news media and your competitors will be more than happy to fill the void. Use your organization’s most effective communicator and all available channels to spread the message. Call on friendly journalists with whom you’ve established solid working relationships, don’t wait for them to call you. Deliver a simple, straightforward and, most importantly, consistent message. After the initial response phase of the crisis has passed, it’s time to begin thinking about a post-crisis plan. It isn’t exactly a return to “business as usual,” but it’s a welcome change from the previous state of emergency. At this point, it’s important to follow up on any public promises made during the crisis to release information. Also, provide regular updates on any steps taken to mitigate future crises, any information on the recovery process or results of investigations into the cause of the crisis. Without question, a crisis is a negative situation that we would all like to avoid, but if there’s one positive, it’s the opportunity to learn from the experience. Perform a post-crisis analysis that examines and details everything that worked and everything that didn’t. Update your crisis response plan accordingly, and cross your fingers that you don’t have to dust it off again anytime soon. Crisis communication roots are based on an organized approach created to minimize damage to an organization and its stakeholders. When inspected thoroughly, crisis communication is broken down into a three-step process in the order of pre-crisis, crisis response and post-crisis. The pre-crisis phase principally focuses on time before a crisis situation has initiated and a company or organization is precisely aiming for prevention. When an organization or company is preparing, a crisis inventory is completed so that crisis managers are tuned in to the crises at hand. Crisis inventories include categorizing crises on a scale of zero to five, measuring the possibility that the crisis could occur, as well as the amount of potential damage imposed on the organization. At this stage, the PR practitioner is preparing for the manifestation and handling of potential crisis. In essence, the main function of crisis communication management is not to win or lose, but rather to address and maintain the crisis at hand and to minimize the damage it could impose on the organization. For the second phase, crisis response, the actual message planning and responses are taken into action. In this stage, public relations has a heavy burden to create and distribute information to various publics that the organization holds close. These messages are disseminated through all types of media including newspaper, radio and television. Previous studies suggest that these traditional media forms influence the way people act on given topics. This particular phase can be divided into two groups- initial crisis response and reputation repair and behavior intentions. In the separation of one group into smaller segments, the practitioner has the capability to target each message to a certain public with a greater chance of a desired outcome and positive retention of the message. In targeted messaging, publics are able to receive messages that are important to only them. Keeping these facets in mind, the innovation of online communication is quickly becoming an important strategic requirement for practitioners. If practitioners increase social media platform use in crisis response, these channels can “influence how organizations will communicate with the media and publics”. So, it is only a matter of time before social media channels take over as a primary information mediator between an organization and its publics. Murphy studied the use of organizations employing mixed motives approaches to public relations practice, and concluded that mixed motive responses are used during crisis communication as well as in strategic communication. According to Weich, most organizational problems lie with how a crisis is responded to rather than the crisis itself. The use of the internet has evolved as a communication instrument, but little research has been done about the use of the internet in crisis communication. In the two earlier stages, practitioners have made promises on behalf of the organizations they represent. In this phase, practitioners are expected to act on the promises made or possibly face the threat of losing their stakeholders’ trust. If these promises are not addressed within adequate time uncertainty can come about. In essence, an organization can finally initiate the steps that need to be taken to deliver the promises made to the stakeholders. Thus, space for loose ends can be made and the crisis can effectively be resolved, sooner than generally expected. The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!