The global ransomware attacks that affected over 100 countries and included the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has shown that any organisation, in any country, has a need for fast and effective crisis communications. Being prepared (crisis preparedness) and having a plan in place on how to respond is vital. But it is just as important to have a communications tools in place to execute the plan and reach a wide audience, which is independent from your internal communications systems. Your own systems can be affected by a crisis, which means communications professionals need to have an independent tool in place to increase the likelihood of being able to respond quickly. Written content takes time to create, which is why webinars are the perfect tool to execute a communications strategy fast.
Many organisations have a crisis plan template in their PR strategy. Traditionally this consists of a process and order of communication elements, including press releases, social media updates, email communications etc to communicate the issues, updates, remedies and other important information. It’s a crucial element to mitigating risk from a major corporate crisis.
Without preparation and a functional plan, the organisation risks doing additional reputational damage adding to the existing crisis, as customers, stakeholders and the general public perceive a slow or insufficient crisis response as a failure to handle this scenario effectively.
Responding to a crisis
The precision with which written communications address the issues at hand are important, because it is black and white. Corporate legal counsels are able to vet the language, but once it is published there are many more questions to be answered. That is where webinars have a distinct advantage.
Webinars can be setup and executed within hours of the crisis occurring (minutes if needed) and subject matter experts can discuss any given scenario or information with greater detail and speed than any other communications format. The added advantage of running a webinar is the experts’ ability to remain in different locations, yet still join together in a webinar.
Concerned parties are able to log into the live webinar and put their questions and concerns to the speakers to get immediate answers and reassurance.
Using the example of the ransomware attack on 12th May 2017, companies could have been able to be seen as proactive and the corporate communications and company leadership would have been able to be close to the customer or user base.
Any organisation can take some simple steps to prepare a webinar, in advance, for the purpose of crisis communications. Here is a simple guide:
- If you don’t already have a webinar solution in place, identify a provider that will support you quickly and around the clock.
- Purchase, in advance, at least one webinar for the purpose of crisis communications
- Setup the webinar to reflect the organisation’s usual design and corporate identity, leaving the title of the webinar blank. This can easily be updated depending on the crisis communications requirements.
- Identify internally which company representatives should be available to speak on this webinar in the event of a crisis, e.g. Director of Corporate Communications, PR Director, C-Suite representative, IT Director, Legal Counsel etc, including back-ups for each speaker
- Define and create a process that allows you to quickly communicate the need for the appropriate representatives to join the webinar. This should include:
- A pre-written notice to company representatives to join the webinar as speakers, including time, date etc. Specific details about the nature of the webinar content can be communicated separately
- Several ways of communicating and distributing the above notice to the representatives, which doesn’t rely on only one (or related) system(s), e.g. email, SMS, internal communications platforms etc
- How to join the webinar as a speaker (including speaker dial-in details, URLs etc)
- Expectations of each representative (this should be created, in advance, based on various scenarios, e.g. cyber attack, loss of data etc)
- Purpose of the webinar, i.e. update stakeholders, alleviate concerns, provide solutions etc
An effective plan also benefits from being reviewed and updated regularly, as well as doing test runs based on various scenarios.
What is your communications plan for a crisis that is unfolding in real-time? Can your organisation afford to stay silent for any length of time? Share prices can rise and fall by the speed and type of response you provide. Take charge of the way the market perceives your organisation’s ability to respond and alleviate any fears, by building live webinars into your communications plan.
24/7 Webcasting provides webinar services around the clock. Get in touch with us today to include this versatile and effective communications tool in your crisis response plan. Call us on +44 207 1939 748 or via our online form at http://www.247webcasting.com/contact for expert advice.