Are you ready for crisis comms?

Would you know how to handle a crisis comms situation? A crisis can hit whatever the size or cause of your organisation. Many charities have never done any thinking or planning around crisis comms which can leave them vulnerable when one happens.

Official sign on a fence says "KEEP CLEAR. Access required 24 hours a day"

A crisis can take many forms. For example, it could be something that has happened internally (whether it is your fault or not) or a storm about something you do or are associated with (again whether true or not). Or it can be external, for example, a hot topic in your area of work which you are involved with, or something effecting your geographical community, such as a fire or flood. If handled right and in certain circumstances, you can come out the other side with new supporters or a stronger community.

A crisis can also be positive. For example, an unexpected growth, someone with a very high profile championing you, or some unplanned media profile.

Crisis comms planning

Whatever the situation, it pays to have done some thinking about the different situations which could affect you. How you respond in each situation may be different depending on how it could impact your reputation, your beneficiaries, your supporters, your employees, your partners etc. The scale of the crisis or how likely it is to escalate will also be a factor.

Can you list some possible situations which you would consider a crisis? Have any of these happened? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time and how have you documented this? What constitutes a crisis and what is business as usual?

If you are at the start of a crisis, would you know what to do? It can feel a bit ‘rabbit in headlights’ if you haven’t been in a situation like this before. It is good to plan for some of the logistics. For example:

  • Who should be on your crisis comms team? Do they have defined roles? Is there someone in charge?
  • Where should you meet?
  • What tools do you need? Such as laptops, phones, a big wall and post-its?
  • What channels would you use or avoid? (see using social media for crisis comms)
  • How can you work best as a team to keep other informed about what is happening?
  • What if it happens out of office hours? Do you have each other’s contact details or passwords? Would you respond from home or all go to the office? Do you have keys? Can you access the website or other channels remotely?

Building your crisis comms skills

Nothing beats actually being in a crisis to develop your skills. In my career I have lived through a few and can remember them very clearly. You learn a lot by being tested in this way. And if there is a next time, instinctive skills kick in.

Can you run a crisis simulation in your team? Can they write a press release under pressure and know how to get it signed off quickly? Do they know when they should involve the CEO or trustees? Have they got a collective tone of voice to be able to collectively respond to social media comments? Do they agree about when or how to respond to a fictional but possible situation? Can they make decisions quickly?

There are companies who run simulation sessions for organisations. I sat-in on one with Helpful Digital over the summer. They have their own secure platform where dummy tweets, emails, Facebook posts and a website can fully replicate the experience of being in the thick of a crisis comms situation. Brilliant to be able to experience a crisis without it being a real crisis!

Learn from others

Another useful way to build crisis comms skills is to look at how other organisations respond. Watch what they do. Would this approach work for you? For example, a few years ago Dogs Trust said that they felt more able to respond strongly to a negative press story after seeing how RNLI had responded to an earlier one.

Have sessions in your team meetings discussing other organisation’s approaches. Don’t just look at your peers. Think KFC running out of chicken.

There are lots of great case studies to read. Start with Brathay Trust – a lesson in crisis comms and Dan Slee’s recent investigation into the crisis comms around the Whaley Bridge dam incident.

[Take a look at RNLI’s current response to negative press stories about them using 2% of their income to fund overseas projects to prevent drowning. The story broke on Sunday resulting in negative comments and people saying they were cancelling donations. By the end of Monday there were over 4000 replies to RNLI’s initial tweet. #RNLI_disgrace has been trending all day mostly now with messages of support and new donations. A few charities have also tweeted their support including Save the Children, Friends of the Earth and the Institute of Fundraising all with a strong number of likes.

RNLI’s approach has been to proudly defend their work putting their values and mission at the centre of their comms. They have responded to hundreds of people with a personal message, not just a cut and paste of a statement. It feels authentic. They even changed their homepage to show a powerful image of one of the projects in action.]

Look after each other

Being in the middle of a crisis situation is stressful and tiring. It can also be very draining to be dealing with an unpleasant situation, a barrage of unpleasant comments or challenging internal pressures.

Think about how you’ll look after each other during and after the event. There may not be time for lunch or to work on everyday projects. Everyone may need some time out and treats to keep them going.

Charity Comms’ new guide to wellbeing has useful tips about building resilience and spotting the signs of fatigue.

Your tips

What have you done to learn about crisis comms? What advice would you pass on? Are there examples of bad crisis comms we can learn from too? Please share in the comments.


Can I help you?

Please get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Digital round-up – June and July 2019

Highlights this month: tools and resources to accelerate digital progress, responses to the Oxfam report, diversity, spontaneous comms.

For one month only, here is a combined round-up with some of the things you might have missed in June and July. Wishing you a productive or restful month whether you are in or out of the office.

sticks of brightly coloured rock in a seaside shop

How to use the round-up: Pick and choose links to read now or later. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox so you don’t miss any.

Content highlights

National Trust tweet - says 'Have you scanned your member card for free parking?'

Twitter takeover of the month: VIP (very important pony) Dennis held the reins of Mencap’s Twitter for a short time during Volunteers Week.

Video of the month: The Bank of England revealed the new face of the £50 note in this video. Genius or awful? You decide…..

Comms: best practice

screenshot from video - shows Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke posing in awful stock photos from the workplace

If you are a Charity Comms member, don’t forget to vote in the trustee election. Closes at 5pm, 19 August.

Digital: strategy, design, culture

Logo from The Catalyst

The Catalyst, a UK collaborative to bring a social purpose to the digital revolution, launched. They are a coalition of major foundations, digital design agencies, civil society bodies and the UK government, seeking to massively accelerate the use of digital in the UK’s voluntary and charity sector. Sign up via the website for information and updates. Read this post by Dan Sutch to find out more – digital, design and data for social good. And follow The Catalyst on Medium too.

More transformation resources:

Logo for the Charity Digital Skills Report 2019

Did you see the results from this year’s Charity Digital Skills Report, now in its third year? More than half (53%) of charities are aware of emerging tech developments but aren’t planning for them yet. Just 12% are planning for how this could change their charity. How does your organisation compare with the results?

See also:

Fundraising

A tank made out of a cake. #BakeForHeroes

People / careers / sector

Oxfam:

The Charity Commission’s report about Oxfam came out at the beginning of June.

Diversity in the sector:

Karl Wilding was appointed as NCVO’s new CEO. While welcomed, the news prompted heated discussions about diversity. Here’s a small selection.

Other reads

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Did you miss May’s round-up?Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – April

 

Highlights this month: Notre Dame, Extinction Rebellion, New Power, April Fool comms, surveys and more….

Another Bank Holiday? Already? Excellent! Catch up with charity digital content and reads you might have missed while you were trying to squeeze some work in between days off.

cherry tree heavy with pink blossom

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

screenshot from National Trust video - 'freshly baked cheese scones. Ketchup or Mayo first?'
screenshot of National Library of Scotland's tweet showing the black hole over the Edinburgh skyline

Comms and marketing

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Screenshot of Matt Collins' article

Fundraising

People and organisations

There has been lots of talk this month about shifts in power, diversity and representation. Here are some useful reads (and watches):

acevo leadership framework

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Did you miss March’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – March 2019

Highlights this month: innovation, charities doing great at digital, responsible tech, #GBSpringClean, The Samaritans new website, representation in images and comms. 

Don’t let Brexit misery drag you down. Get outside for a nice walk in the sunshine, have an ice cream, then settle back to catch up on this month’s good reads and great content. 

model of 1950s seaside. woman sits reading a book while two boys queue for ice cream

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

screenshot from Wildlife Trusts' video of animated Wind in the Willows

Comms

Charity Comms' Innovation report

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Samaritans - screenshot of new homepage

The web at 30

The world wide web was 30 this month. I looked at how the charity web has changed through the evolution of the British Red Cross website

Fundraising

People and organisations

One of the 10 tips - don't ignore succession planning and empowering teams

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Did you miss February’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – February 2019

Highlights this month: designing comms for young people, housestyle / accessible writing, personas of offline users, February hashtags.

Although it was a short month, February was packed with great comms and good reads. Here’s some you might have missed.

Large beach huts face out to sea at Shoeburyness in Essex

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Family have an argument in their kitchen. Monster with tentacles sits on the table. Still from campaign video.

Twitter takeover of the month: Fight Bladder Cancer took over MADLcharity’s Twitter account for three days to raise awareness and reach a new audience. It would be good to see a Moment of the takeover to preserve the messages and energy from the event, giving the takeover a longer shelf life.

Comms

Screenshot from Dan's blog post - showing stats of YouTube viewing by age

Check your language:

Conferences:

Comms news, tips and examples:

Digital – strategy, design, culture

4 personas from the Good Things Foundation research

Fundraising

People, teams and culture

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Did you miss January’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – November 2018

Highlights this month: #YouMadeItHappen, #GivingTuesday, Christmas campaigns, Charity Digital Code launched.

November is always a rich time for content with Giving Tuesday and Christmas appeals. This month it was also the first ever #YouMadeItHappen day. It was great to see so many large and small charities joining in by thanking their supporters and sharing detail of the impact they had made.

children's self portraits hanging in a classroom

How to use this round-up: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Or, even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content

Christmas campaigns:

Cute dog. A dog is for life not just for Christmas.

Need more Christmas? See UK Fundraising’s collection of Christmas ads and my top 5 charity digital advent calendars.

Giving Tuesday:

Also this month:

screenshot of video shared by Age UK of older lady standing next to runners in a race. She holds out her arm to get high fives from friendly runners.

Did you join in with #YouMadeItHappen day? The hashtag reached 5.4m people. Here are some highlights of YMIH 2018.

Twitter takeover of the month: Scope for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Comms

Mind tweet showing video of Erther McVey arguing for Universal Credit in the House of Commons.

Don’t forget to book your ticket for the Social Media Exchange in February.

Digital – strategy, design, culture

'Join the conversation about the #CharityDigitalCode'

Following the consultation period, the Charity Digital Code has now officially launched. Do have a look if you haven’t already.

The Small Charities Coalition challenged Zoe Amar to explain it in three post-it notes. And in Charity Digital News she shares 7 things you can do in 30 minutes a day.

The Code advocates digital skills across staff and the board. This helpful infographic produced by Zoe Amar, Ellie Hale, Sally Dyson and Janet Thorne asks Do you need a digital trustee?

Also this month:

Fundraising

JustTextGiving to close in March next year. Are you ready? (See also Figure for text donation plummets by £86m and donr announces text giving service.)

Movember's contactless fundraising badges

People and organisations

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Did you miss October’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – June

June passed by in a blur of great weather, football fever and lots of great charity reads. Get an ice cream / cool drink and settle back to hook some juicy digital catches!

metal fish in a paddling pool, ready to be hooked for fun. Summer picture.

Warning – this is another bumper crop. Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox. Enjoy!

Content

Dogs Trust - cute animation. Starts with a dog shuffling across the screen looking cheeky

Map with hundreds of red dots, each clickable to read the supporter's comment

5s video showing a small wave washing away a person (in lego) talking a photo of the weather.

Screenshot of doggy Twitter Moment

Digital

In case you missed it Brathay Trust: a lesson in crisis comms.

Brathay's instagram - image of a young man in a bright yellow t-shirt completing the run

Teams and ways of working

Mind your language

Suicide has been in the news a lot recently. Here are some guides to writing about it responsibly.

Events

Fundraising

Scope subscription box Mindful Monsters for parents and chidren

More

And finally….

1970's BBC presenter next to a BBC micro computer.

 

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with digital copywriting, content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

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Did you miss May’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!