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Blog > The 10 Steps of Crisis Communications part 2: How to react

The 10 Steps of Crisis Communications part 2: How to react

affiché le 7 nov 2017

by Maria Lahiffe

United Airlines, Uber and Dove have recently provided viral examples of public relations crises. Not-for-profits can also find themselves in hot water with funders, volunteers and staff. An unexplained client death, food poisoning outbreak or sticky fingered treasurer will quickly land a non-for-profit under public scrutiny.

If you don’t prepare, then you will incur more damage, having to devote ever-more resources to fixing your reputation, rather than serving your stakeholders. The good news is, if you DO prepare ahead of time, you can turn a crisis around and maybe even use it to improve your public image. Most of these steps can, and should, be done proactively, before any crisis appears on the horizon. [1]

Steps 1-7: Be Proactive

We talked about the seven proactive steps you can take, to be prepared for a crisis, in this previous post. Reacting well to a crisis depends very much on good preparation, so please go back and read how to prepare before moving on. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that you’ve laid the groundwork, you’re ready for when the storm hits.

Step 8: Assess the situation

When a crisis hits, you absolutely need to get information before you react. Issue the appropriate holding statement(s) to make sure people know you are aware and you are working on a solution.

Some things to consider when assessing a crisis situation include: [2]

  • What is the situation? What will happen next?
  • Who on staff needs to be involved?
  • What immediate steps need to be taken?
  • Is anyone in danger?
  • What is known and who already knows it?
  • Who will be affected?
  • What are people feeling? (What emotions need to be considered?)
  • What information is needed and who needs to get this information? When will the information be available?
  • What can and cannot be said?
  • Is legal cousel needed?
  • Who will be contacted? For example:
    • Media
    • Legislators – municipal, provincial, federal
    • Donors
    • Organization members

Step 9: Finalize and adapt key messages

If you have completed the proactive steps 1-7, then your communications team already has its holding statements, and it knows what type of information its stakeholders are looking for. If you have not completed those steps, then now is the time to do so.

You know what type of information your stakeholders are looking for. Your next step is to decide what each stakeholder group needs to know about this crisis. Keep it simple. Have no more than three main messages which go to all stakeholders, plus, as necessary, one or two additional audience-specific messages for each stakeholder group.

Adapt your messages to the media. People consume information differently on Facebook than they do on Twitter. Emails are different again, as are news articles. And so on.

Step 10: Post-crisis analysis

After the brown matter stops flying, you are not done yet. Make sure to analyze the crisis and its response, to figure out what you can learn, and how you can do better next time. Some questions to ask in your debrief are:

  • Is there still any long-term damage which we need to work on repairing?
  • What went right?
  • What went wrong?
  • What could be done better next time?

Record this in a formal document, which can inform Steps 1-7 as you lay the groundwork for an even better response the next time a crisis hits.

Want to learn more? Come to an upcoming workshop.

Click here for more information, and to register.

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to all aspects of running a non-profit or a charity. Click here for our event calendar. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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[1] J. Bernstein, "The 10 Steps of Crisis Communications," Bernstein Crisis Management, 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/the-10-steps-of-crisis-communications/. [Accessed 3 November 2017]. [2] U. S. N. R. Centre, "Managing Crisis: Risk Management and Crisis Response Planning," [Online]. Available: http://strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/guidebooks/Managing_Crisis.pdf. [Accessed 3 November 2017]. [3] Strengthening Non-Profits, "Managing Crisis," Strengthening Non-Profits, [Online]. Available: http://www.strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/e-learning/online/managingcrisis/Print.aspx. [Accessed 3 November 2017].
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