November 23, 2015
Bringing Your Team Together During Its Toughest Moments

Businesses large and small pride themselves on their collaborative processes. Executives know that bringing people together on projects heightens creativity, helps tasks run more smoothly, and allows firms to serve their customers better. But when a crisis hits, these ideals often evaporate into thin air, replaced by sheer pandemonium.

Whether a companywide emergency occurs in the public eye, takes place in a courtroom, or transpires internally, it has the power to cripple your infrastructure from the inside out. That’s why it’s during these rough times that your brand should focus on coming together, not falling apart.

It’s Human Nature to Grasp at Straws

As humans, we all want to take control when situations are going south. When mayhem seeps into your organization, people start feeling lost: “What’s my role in this situation? How should I respond?” And when people start assigning blame, relationships become fractured; only further dismantling efforts to maintain cohesion.

Many brands find themselves leaving collaborative efforts behind and, in their place, adopting a more top-down approach to regain some level of control. They install a single leader who — rather than work with others to determine direction and response — dictates actions.

But giving into the urges of chaos can be extraordinarily detrimental to your business.

Not only can it result in missed opportunities and wasted resources, but it can also damage your public perception, especially when your marketing and PR departments aren’t on the same page. Any misaligned messaging deteriorates internal communications and breaks down efforts toward common goals. What’s more, when you turn to top-down control, you’ll lose valuable perspectives and most likely miscommunicate with different audiences.

On the other hand, maintaining collaboration empowers your employees to work together to move past and grow from the crisis. It maintains a unified front so your brand can continue to derive value from the different viewpoints and methodologies within your organization.

Achieve Collaboration During Crunch Time

aintaining an alliance despite adversity can make your team stronger than ever and give your brand a solid competitive advantage. Here are five steps for keeping it together:

1. Plan Ahead

Organizations that want to preserve collaboration in times of crisis must be willing to plan ahead — period.

Develop a crisis preparation plan that explains what will happen in every possible situation. In particular, you need to outline expected roles in the event of a lawsuit, a viral smear campaign, and a destructive natural disaster. Ideally, you won’t deal with crises on a regular basis, but you should know exactly how to respond when they do crop up.

2. Establish a Point Person

hen a crisis hits, most people want to know who is in charge, but no one wants to work with a dictator. Collaboration does not mean consensus — it means working together. All collaborative efforts should have a responsible individual serving as the point person. This way, people will have someone to consult when they’re feeling lost, lacking direction, or needing an update.

3. Nurture Important Relationships

Relationships that are vital to the collaborative effort should also be nurtured long before they’re needed. Contacts with liaisons and partners should be established to help people understand their counterparts’ working styles and give them time to establish a communication pattern. For example, marketing and legal teams should be regularly communicating to ensure compliance with all industry regulations. Likewise, legal and corporate communications should work seamlessly to get the right messages out in a timely manner.

4. Prioritize Projects

It’s crucial that everyone understands which projects require collaboration and which projects certain people can handle on their own. Your team members cannot work efficiently if they have to spend hours figuring out logistics before they can get back to serving your customers.

5. Don’t Leave Your Audience in the Dark

No matter what the crisis might be, communicating effectively with the public requires a careful balance of reporting the facts and controlling your brand image. This calls for the collaboration of a variety of departments to ensure that everyone agrees with the information passed along. Without a unified front, you’re at serious risk for damaging your relationships with any and all external stakeholders.

Collaborative efforts are incredibly valuable for brands in times of prosperity, but they’re even more important when everything is going wrong. Rather than allow the chaos to change your processes, collaboration needs to be fortified so your brand may better navigate the problem and position itself for long-term success.

Sarah Clark
Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell Communications Group, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City. Mitchell is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network and has more than 300 offices in 110 countries. Clark is one of the top strategic communications professionals in the country, with more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications and an exceptional track record in protecting corporate reputations and redefining perceptions in key areas of business.

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