A crisis is an unplanned event that has the potential of seriously disrupting the internal and external structure, plans, processes, systems, products, operations, services, growth, stability, legitimacy, financial standing, popular equity, stakeholder equity, investor confidence, regulatory framework or environment of an organization. A crisis is likely to affect employees, other members internal to the organization, associates, customers, key publics and stakeholders external to the organization.
Critically, from a communication perspective, a crisis tests the legitimacy of an organization. In the event of a crisis, the media’s influence on public perception may affect the livelihood of an organization. The media can influence public perception in regards to issues involving cause, blame, response, resolution, and consequences. Presented in a negative light, the legitimacy of an organization may be threatened. Once an organization is viewed in a negative light, the reputation and the overall equilibrium of the company may be at risk.
Communication presents various challenges in each phase of a crisis. What is communicated and by whom within the organization performs a pivotal role. Being able to effectively communicate with key publics is central to an organization in the event of a crisis.
Crisis communication is the communication between the organization and its publics prior to, during, and after the negative occurrence. Senior officials within the corporation will often attempt to communicate with the media, the general public, and key stakeholders in order to appear as having controlled or contained the crisis. During the communication phase, the organization must appear to be in control (at least in its appearance) to members external to the corporation. Such behavior will direct stakeholders’ physical and psychological responses, as well as impressions about the organization.
The success of crisis communication is critically dependent on the best calls taken which, in turn, is subject to the degree of preparation, anticipation and ready-made tools of analysis and pre-agreed reaction which are available to the group handling the crisis at the outbreak.
Most importantly, a crisis communication module will work if it is simple, easily understood, has prior buy-in of all stakeholders and enables creation of a chain of command that is responsive