A guide to crisis communication for construction and property leaders
Reputation is everything
Data protection breaches, protests, public consultation fails, property PR disasters, construction marketing mismanagement, poor social media management, vexatious claims and actions by disgruntled staff members, trespassers on site, accidents on site, inaccurate media reporting, compliance breaches, social media videos that capture members of your team or parts of your organisation out of context and without your knowledge, public safety concerns, financial issues, trade and media speculation… Unfortunately, this is not an exhaustive list of the issues that your organisation may be facing.
Events of recent weeks have prompted us to put together a high level guide or checklist for the leaders of organisations within the construction and property industries who might be dealing with an issue that is likely to have a negative impact on reputation, both internally and externally.
The role of our Property District Crisis Communications & Issues Management team is to help manage the issue i.e. put a response structure in place, and to help lead your people in the direction needed for your organisation. Simply put, if something bad has happened to impact your organisation, we cannot undo that. Our immediate priority is to ensure things don’t get worse. From there, our role is to help your team to understand what happened, so that it can be truthfully explained to stakeholders, and to take action to prevent reoccurrence.
A crisis is no place for a manager
It has become something of a cliche to say that real leaders are forged in times of crisis, but that does not stop it being true. In our experience, when faced with a crisis, managers either fail or evolve into leaders who speak and act with integrity, who show moral conviction and who earn and maintain the trust of stakeholders. Frankly, a crisis is no place for a manager, it requires a leader.
It is important to clarify here that people are not to be managed (and definitely not ‘handled’). The organisation is to be managed, the response to the crisis ought to be managed, but people need to be led, particularly during times of crisis.
Fundamentals of crisis communications
While the anatomy of every crisis is different, there are fundamentals that hold true in every case and there are priorities that apply to most instances. These are broadly as follows:
- Stop the bleeding: That is to say, take immediate action to make safe or mitigate the ongoing cause of the crisis.
- Don’t hunker down: Respond quickly to acknowledge that an issue is being attended to; do not speculate or engage with media or stakeholder speculation.
- Assess: Take time to fully understand the facts; this is not a time for positioning or a CYA approach.
- Speak with integrity: Do not lie, misrepresent the facts, blame or make excuses
- No time for blame: Blame and responsibility are not the same thing: Leaders might not be to blame, but it is generally their role to accept responsibility.
Act with integrity
“A crisis is an opportunity riding a dangerous wind.” Chinese Proverb
It is critical to learn from the situation that gave rise to the crisis. This might mean changing organisational procedures, improving internal and external communications, media training, a change in the SMT, upskilling team members, updating communications, heightening cyber and/or physical security, putting social media management policies in place, and a host of other activities to ensure that similar issues do not evolve in a future crisis. Above all, act with integrity. If an undertaking is given to make changes, MAKE THE CHANGES. Use the crisis as an opportunity to do better.
This might be the right time to get smart about protecting your organisation’s reputation; to get your construction marketing right and your property PR in order.
Contact the team at www.propertydistrict.ie in confidence to discuss putting together a crisis response and business continuity plan.
Property District is a top tier, specialist marketing and communications agency for the planning, construction, property and proptech industries. In addition to discreet PR, responsive crisis communications and media training, the team has particular expertise in public consultation and runs some of Ireland’s busiest and most influential social media accounts. New media content created includes award-winning written content, graphics, infographics, video, podcasting and immersive technologies (virtual reality and augmented reality). www.propertydistrict.ie