Welcome to part two of our series on nonprofit communications! As I mentioned last time, we were really excited to attend The Nonprofit Roundtable’s event CommMission: Leveraging Communications. The event invited Executive Directors and Communications Directors of DC area nonprofits to come and learn how effective communications can help their organizations achieve their goals.[spacer height=”20px”]
Laura Meyers of Planned Parenthood has years of experience with crisis communications. The past decade has been fraught with controversy for the organization. From controversial rulings to major donors withdrawing support, Planned Parenthood has responded to all crises calmly, clearly, and effectively.[spacer height=”20px”]
Meyers pointed out that many nonprofits, when faced with a crisis, do the “duck and wish”; they duck for cover and wish it weren’t happening! But crises don’t just fade away; they have to be dealt with. How to deal with them confounds many nonprofits (and for profits!) but it doesn’t have to.[spacer height=”20px”]
Meyers advocates for having a crisis plan and writing it down. While you never want a crisis to arise, you want to be prepared for it just in case. Better safe than sorry! Part of that crisis plan should involve designating a person to speak for the organization. Having one spokesperson as the face of the company can help avoid mixed messages, and ensure that all communications are reviewed before release.[spacer height=”20px”]
Speaking from her own experience, Meyers strongly recommends being prepared when a crisis is occurring. This may mean keeping spare clothes and toiletries in the office to appear fresh even after an all nighter, and memorizing the routes to media centers to get to interviews as quickly as possible.[spacer height=”20px”]
If the crisis is something that has to be dealt with (not just responded to) Meyers highlights the importance of being decisive in your actions. Don’t waffle.[spacer height=”20px”]
Above all: during a crisis you must behave as if everything you say and do will become public and shown in the worst possible light. Be careful of what you say, stick to the crisis plan, and practice responses to the questions that will most likely be asked.
Following Laura Meyers’ advice is no guarantee that a crisis will blow over quickly. But at least your organization will be ready to face it.