All businesses face a crisis at some point and few industries are more affected by the current pandemic than the global travel and tourism industry. Throughout this period, effective crisis PR will be essential in ensuring continued reassurance and confidence, and to secure the confidence of your stakeholders. Here are 5 important crisis response strategies.
- Put forecasting and monitoring in place: You cannot effectively respond to a crisis if you are not properly informed about it or are taken by surprise. You must be as proactive as possible in forecasting crises on the horizon. Identify who is commenting on the situation and who the main voices are in the public square. Ensure you have the capacity to effectively analyze the impact so you can respond with the appropriate measures and minimal assumptions.
- Understand the issues before you respond: We have all witnessed a great deal of misinformation being spread about the COVID-19 crisis. This is largely because, for both individuals and organizations, pressure to address their personnel and/or stakeholders on this dominant issue, ends up taking precedence over the need to be fully informed on it, which itself takes time and effort.
Engage in dialogue with as many informed stakeholders as you can, consult experts, be aware of the conflicting points of view, and do your research on how it affects your business and local context so that you are clear about what you should and should not say, and what the unknowns of the situation are. If you are still getting up to speed it may be advisable to put out a “holding statement” that simply says you are aware of the situation and will offer more information as quickly as possible.
- Focus on the essential: It can be tempting to share every detail during a crisis – while this may convey openness and honesty, information overload can be unhelpful or even frightening for your stakeholders – and the last thing you want is panic. It is best to provide the right amount of directly relevant information to the broad audience that your response to the crisis makes sense to them, triaging the level of detail provided by those who are most impacted.
- Be honest: While misinformation can be rife, the facts tend to emerge eventually and you should work from this assumption. Taking a dishonest stance is always extremely risky. Your stakeholders will forgive errors but may not forgive dishonesty. Communicating that you do not know the answer is valid and conveys trustworthiness – state that you don’t know and that you are making your best effort to find answers.
- Learn from every crisis: Remember it is not just about weathering the current crisis but improving your response to the next one and building organizational resilience. Questions like, “How could we have prevented this?” and, “What can we do better next time?” need to be asked and answered.
It is also important to monitor how the situation impacted your brand long after it has subsided. How have perceptions of your destination changed if at all? How has traveller demand been impacted? Did you gain or lose followers in social media? Did engagement return to normal? What actions can you take to counter the negative sentiment with positive? Can you enlist the help of influencers to rebuild your good reputation?