Daylon Dcruz on Mastering the Art of Crisis Communication

BF Firos |
In today's fast-paced world, every company faces the potential for a public relations crisis. To navigate these turbulent times, effective communication and a well-honed crisis management plan are essential. Daylon Dcruz, Senior Director at Pitchfork Partners, offers valuable insights from his experience as a PR pro, sharing his approach to crisis communication, maintaining stakeholder trust, and staying ahead of the curve.

Can you share an example of a crisis situation you've managed in your career, and how have you approached it?

Due to the nature of the crisis/crises, revealing examples due to confidentiality agreements with clients is a bit of a challenge. However, I think, at the fundamental level the basic approach is to ensure minimal trust erosion for the brand/corporation you are representing. The core approach hence will always be to have transparency, compassion, and empathy, coupled with action to make things right and better for the concerned stakeholders.

How do you prioritize communication channels during a crisis, and what factors influence your decisions?

The criticality is understanding the stakeholders and the platforms at which they exist. Determining the channels becomes easy. For example, in a crisis that involves labor issues, the best option would be to reach out to them first over a conversation rather than deploying mediums like a statement or social media post. On the other hand, if it’s a crisis that has multiple stakeholders, using channels like social media effectively can help douse any negativity emanating from it. While it is important to communicate in a crisis, it is equally important to choose the right channels to have an impact.

3. What strategies do you employ to maintain transparency and trust with stakeholders during turbulent times?

Transparency and trust during a crisis are less strategic elements and more fundamental. Effectively communicating the facts is as critical as the strategy itself. A crisis strategy cannot be created overnight, it has to be in place from the beginning. The tactics might vary as per the crisis but to be able to maintain trust and transparency, honest and empathetic communication is key. The aim is to treat the stakeholders with sensitivity and address their questions in real-time.

Could you describe a time when you had to navigate conflicting interests among different stakeholders during a crisis? How did you handle it?

Fortunately, I haven’t faced a situation like this in my professional career. However, in conflicting situations, it’s important to understand the end objective which is reputation protection during a crisis. As long as the organisation’s reputation becomes a primary objective, conflicts amongst stakeholders can be managed to ensure the best possible response to the crisis.

What are the key elements of an effective crisis management plan, and how do you ensure its successful implementation?

Having clear roles defined for a crisis is key. Most established companies constitute a Crisis Management Team and a Crisis Handbook. Having some of these elements at hand ensures efficacy concerning any crisis. Understanding scenarios and mapping the action plan and responses helps communication teams prepare for most eventualities.

From an execution perspective, there is no better strategy than being prepared. This means ensuring the base-level narratives are in place, stakeholder contact sheets are kept handy and updated, pressure testing your responses to understand possible vulnerabilities, and then re-calibrating your approach for the same is critical.

How do you stay updated on emerging trends and best practices in crisis management, and how do you incorporate them into your work?

As a PR professional, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. I read a lot, analyze and study crisis case studies. There are several opportunities to also be part of industry events, webinars, and panel discussions around crisis communication and management. This keeps me informed and updated on the latest insights and trends. Several online resources offer valuable information and following certain blogs, social media groups, professionals and industry platforms is a good way of keeping abreast.

As a PR professional, I also spend time on social media and news monitoring to have a finger on the pulse. Finally, scenario planning or simulations are very useful in analyzing or anticipating crises, and to navigate effectively.

Can you discuss a crisis situation that caught you off guard, and what you learned from it to improve your crisis management approach?

Sure. Years back, when social media was not as mammoth as it is today, a seemingly harmless social media post by a well-meaning employee of a known company went viral and sparked an unwanted controversy for the company. We were caught off guard because we had not considered the potential impact of an employee’s social media activity.

This experience opened my eyes to the potential of social media and the impact it has on the reputation of an organisation. Learning from this, we implemented social media training for all employees and emphasized responsible online conduct. We also devised a rapid response protocol for social media crises to enable prompt response and controlled messaging.

The lesson learned was that a crisis could emerge from anywhere, within or outside the organisation. The important thing to do is, consider all potential threats and risks, and prepare in advance.