Crisis communication – or issues management - is a key part of any company's communication strategy. Especially in construction, where the risk of incidents is increased.

Many businesses overlook the need for a crisis communication plan, only realising its value when something goes wrong. News can escalate rapidly and the communication can take a life of its own unless dealt with quickly and effectively.

At Rumpus, we have experience dealing with a range of crises. We have dealt with fire outbreaks, incidents of personal injury and road accidents.

All of these events were unexpected, however, regional media outlets were quickly alerted. More often than not, staff members on site are not prepared to deal with media.

Keep calm and evaluate what is happening

Each of these occasions brought each company immediately into the media spotlight. As the press office in place, we were contacted in each of the above cases. Our experience allowed us to quickly evaluate the situation while the news agenda was being pulled in many directions.

Keeping calm is key. Develop your strategy, consider having an internal response team and identify your key spokesperson – be ready to respond immediately with a ‘holding statement’. Inform employees that the issue is being dealt with and that under no circumstance should anyone speak with the media. The first message that you communicate to the media is the most important and must be considered carefully.

Consider your audience

Get the facts, craft your key message, and consider your audience. Always tell the truth and keep your message succinct – do not deviate from the message agreed. Identify the potential risks and tell your audience your planned actions to deal with these. As the incident is developing ensure you’re keeping everyone informed and updated as to progress.

In the meantime, ensure that you have identified all your key stakeholders and that you are communicating with them clearly and effectively. Continue to monitor and evaluate the situation, and the media exposure and ensure that all journalist enquires are being addressed as per the agreed strategy.

Peace of mind

Many companies will go through life without needing to implement a crisis plan. Having the plan and strategy in place offers peace of mind if anything unforeseen does occur.

It is easier for a PR to coordinate a planned strategy than to deal with a news agenda that has already gathered pace. It takes a lifetime to build a brand – it can take minutes to lose it.