It is four days to Kenya’s first General Elections under the new constitution and many multi-nationals, corporates, Small and Medium sized companies and even individuals are working tirelessly to develop crisis communication strategies in readiness to this historic event. Consumers have been advised to shop in plenty since most retail stores will be closed during the electioneering period. One might question why but the last time Kenya held its General Elections in 2007, the day to day running of businesses were disrupted and many Kenyans lost their lives attributed to the 2007/08 Post-Election violence brought about by the disputed presidential results.
In this regard, Kenyans and the business community are taking precautionary measures through ensuring that they come up with impactful crisis management plans to counter any eventualities.
Crisis communications are tricky situations that require careful navigation. If you foresee a crisis, it is good PR practice that you manage how you will break the news to the world. Being proactive and breaking the news to media with your key messages in place and your spokespeople delivering the information can help mitigate damage and risk.The sure-fire way to escalate your business’s crisis situation is to be caught flat-footed — or, in a PR crisis, with both feet in your mouth.
A crisis communication strategy is not always the ultimate weapon against a crisis, no matter how many weeks you’ve spent analyzing the weak points in your security system, setting up a standby call centre to address customers in case of the system, calling your friendly media to maintain the relationship- all your efforts are wasted without a proper holding statement ready for release.
Each holding statement is unique for a particular business, but the basic principles are the same. The holding statement must address the crisis head-on and without any doublespeak, acknowledge that something wrong is going on, offer immediate information, and resolve to address the media and public again once all the facts have been collected. And, most importantly, you must show sincerity, genuine concern and appreciation for the crisis situation.
Apply this general approach when your business needs to speak, and you will buy the precious time necessary for a more coordinated, concentrated response to any problem factors that may arise.
And with that let me embark on preparing the holding statements for the coming general elections where either Uhuru Kenyatta or Raila Odinga will be Kenya's 4th president.