Welcome back to The Goods! In this special spooky-themed edition, we’re pulling back the curtain on how to prepare for and deal with the skeletons that may be lingering in your closet – or reputational crises, as we call them. Get ready to dive into GSG’s top tips and tricks (or treats) on how to prepare, manage, and recover from any crises lurking in the shadows.
The Goods is a newsletter for social impact communicators that helps you keep track of the latest updates, trends, industry best practices, and much more. This content is compiled and curated monthly by Jade Floyd, Victoria Dellacava, and Nancy Hine.
Understanding what it means to be in crisis
A reputational crisis is a situation or series of situations that haunt your organization’s credibility and, depending on the circumstance, can severely undermine stakeholder confidence. A reputational crisis negatively impacts your stakeholders’ trust in, and perception of, your organization.
While many crisis scenarios apply to for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations alike, there are some that are unique to the non-profit world, like accusations against the causes you support or reduced grant making. Even something that doesn’t start out as a crisis, like updating your programs or funding models, can turn into a reputational crisis under certain circumstances. Philanthropic organizations are not immune to political pressure – investigative reporters and policymakers on both sides of the aisle are watching the sector closely, particularly when it comes to funding sources.
How to make it through
A crisis is almost always time-sensitive, complex, and requires decisive action. Given the high stakes and necessity for comprehensive, yet nuanced, responses, you and your team won’t want to be thinking through a situation for the first time under such scary circumstances. Here are some key steps to keep in mind:
- Organize Internally: Create a Crisis Management Team (CMT) with clear roles and responsibilities and establish internal protocols to ease the stress of managing under duress.
- Assess Vulnerabilities: Identify and document potentially troubling scenarios to help inform strategies and communications tactics that stabilize and control narratives.
- Execute Efficiently: Prepare internal and public-facing materials that speak in a unified and clear voice and allow you to mobilize quickly.
- Evaluate Performance: Document your successes and failures in handling the crisis and determine the steps necessary to prevent or mitigate future reputational risks.
How to distinguish between a bad omen and spooky situation
It is important to note that not every business problem is a reputational crisis, and some crises are bigger than others. It is critical to evaluate the risk from each stakeholder group’s point of view before you decide to take action. Perhaps you simply need to address something internally. Maybe there is a concerning post on social media, but the account only has a handful of followers. It’s important to assess the actual threat level before diving into a full-fledged response.
Your work isn’t done once the crisis is behind you. While the situation is still fresh, it’s a good time to meet with your teams to analyze how the crisis happened, how the response went, and break out the crystal ball to foresee how you might better handle a similar situation in the future. As appropriate, update your crisis scenario preparation guides to reflect your learnings. Memorializing lessons learned may be the difference between your organization’s reputation’s untimely demise and making it out of the next reputational crisis without haunting consequences.
Happy Halloween, readers!
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