You can’t predict the next crisis to impact your company, but effective preparation can help mitigate its effects on your company’s reputation and bottom line. Companies need to ensure they have both an effective crisis communications playbook as well as the right cross-functional team to implement it. Issue management is more than a PR function, and each team member plays an integral role in weathering a crisis effectively. Be sure you have these six roles represented—and collaborating—on your crisis communications team.
Even before a crisis strikes, your company's PR team should be constantly monitoring for potential issues and developing response templates for a variety of scenarios. When a situation does arise, public relations is responsible for crafting proactive and reactive statements, media outreach, fielding inbound calls, overseeing press releases, and prepping others in the organization for interviews and press conferences—all to ensure uniform messaging.
PR may also be responsible for monitoring the environment to gauge public sentiment and keep track of the conversation across traditional and social media channels. Your PR team also needs to have the tools and a pre-defined process for discerning the public reaction to the issue as well as your company's crisis response.Marketing
Legal In collaboration with PR, Marketing plays a key role in message development during a crisis (and in many organizations, both report into the CMO). Customer communications are often the priority with PR colleagues tailoring speaking points to the media. Marketing may also share responsibility in identifying and measuring the public’s attitudes and reactions. And depending where social media management falls in the organization, Marketing may also take the lead in engaging those online communities.
In the midst of a crisis, your legal team provides critical input on minimizing risk and acting according to contractual and regulatory requirements. Your general counsel understands important legal nuances that other departments may overlook—or be unaware of, especially in the confusion that can arise during a crisis, so they must review all forms of messaging that come out of the organization.
Ideally, your entire in-house legal department plays an active role in reviewing messaging and providing analysis and advice throughout the process. Some companies may also hire outside counsel with specialized experience. These specialists understand how vital it is for companies to be transparent and provide as much information as is legally possible during crisis situations.Product Management
If a technical or safety issue arises with a product, the senior product manager should provide insight into the cause, its impact on customers, and a resolution plan. They will also collaborate with Marketing and PR on messaging to ensure the issue is clearly and accurately articulated to customers and the media.Information Security
In the event of an information security issue—such as a customer data breach—your company's Chief Security Officer can provide visibility into the nature of a cyberattack or other instances of unauthorized access, and requirements to resolve vulnerabilities. They can also provide PR and Marketing with speaking points, such as how your company’s security processes and infrastructure safeguards against security threats.Investor Relations
Investor relations is responsible for discerning and communicating the financial effects of a situation to shareholders and other investors. While they are also tasked with balancing investor's concerns and the company's reputation during a crisis, a 2012 study by IR Insight found that investor relations professionals actually need to place corporate reputation above investor's concerns to have the best long-term outcome. That means being honest about the impact the crisis has on the company's finances, even if it causes apprehension in shareholders.