At the 2020 Emerge conference, Christian Moises presented on “Creating an Adaptable Crisis Communication Process.” Below in a summary of his presentation. The recordings for the 2020 Emerge Virtual Conference are now available for purchase in the AAM Store. Click here to purchase and access this valuable training to grow your accounting marketing expertise.
From a crisis communication standpoint, COVID-19 caught most accounting marketers off guard. This is common in crisis communications. However, the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” applies when creating a crisis communication strategy.
Preparing a Crisis Communication Strategy
When it comes to navigating a crisis, several crisis communication strategies can prepare firms. Many of these strategies should be in place prior to the crisis.
- Create a plan of attack: To navigate a crisis, develop a strategy proactively. Create a culture of trust, credibility and open and honest communication. Doing this prior to a crisis can help a firm be an accepted and trusted source of information.
- Establish a team: Having the right people in place is paramount to maintaining day-to-day business. The designated crisis team can focus on the crisis while the rest of the firm focuses on client work.
- Assess your vulnerabilities: It is important to think of everything that can go wrong. Prioritize vulnerabilities by identifying what would be most urgent or probable. Seek ways to mitigate these vulnerabilities before they become crises.
- Write holding statements: Focus on what to do and say during the first critical hours of a crisis. The key is to make clients comfortable. Keeping silent about crisis issues can anger and frustrate them and exacerbate the problem. Create key statements that are accurate yet flexible enough to add details about the emerging crisis.
- Identify key stakeholders: When researching your vulnerabilities and potential crises, it is important to identify the impact to various audiences. Look at it from an industry perspective, a service line viewpoint or a general all-purpose issue. Then communicate to those audiences directly and in a timely manner.
- Identify communication channels: With such an emphasis on social media and email as communication tools, it is important to identify which channel(s) will be most effective. A crisis may also be a time when a firm many need to find new channels as well.
Navigating the Crisis
One of the most important things to remember in crisis communication is not to speculate publicly about what is not a fact. More importantly, always communicate with the internal team first. Everyone needs to be on the same page. At the end of the day, with social media (be sure to have a social media policy in place), everyone is a PR representative. Be sure to send messages internally first and send everyone to the approved resource center. (Debra Helwig led a recent AAM High! webinar about how her firm, K-Coe Isom, handled internal communications during COVID-19.)
Never Stop Evolving a Crisis Communication Strategy
Do not be afraid to tweak a crisis communication strategy as a crisis unfolds. Once the crisis has passed, take what was learned and update the crisis communication plan accordingly. Additionally, regardless of whether a crisis occurs, the plan should be reviewed – and updated – on a continual basis.
What is Emerge?
Emerge is marketing and business development reimagined. How we lead teams, speak to and engage with clients, manage brands and help propel business growth forward has been redefined. It’s not the rules that have changed, it’s the whole game. Emerge is AAM’s two-day virtual marketing conference designed to inspire, transform, and elevate with the information needed today.
The recordings for the 2020 Emerge Virtual Conference are now available for purchase in the AAM Store. Click here to purchase and access this valuable training to grow your accounting marketing expertise.
Emerge attendees can still access the recordings for free using their conference log in credentials here.
About Christian Moises
Christian Moises APR is practice growth specialist for Ericksen Krentel CPAs and Consultants in New Orleans, where he is a one-man shop doing it all. He spent the first 10 years of his career in journalism, serving as an editor with New Orleans CityBusiness, the business journal of New Orleans, before transitioning to marketing and communications, with stops in death care communications, community hospital public relations and marketing/communications for an AM Law 200 regional law firm. He also serves as editor and committee chairman for AAM’s quarterly thought leadership publication Growth Strategies.