Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Dejan Letić
Sanja Vučinić, Client Service Director of the Belgrade agency SVA, and author of the book Communication Strategies in Crisis Situations. This is the first book written in Serbia which comprehensively deals with strategic communication in crises, and represents a guide for strategic planning and communication management in crisis situations.
At the traditional annual awards of the Association for Serbian Market Communications (UEPS) held in December last year, the book received a gold award in the category Publishing Project of the Year.
Media Marketing: What inspired you to write a book on crisis communication?
Sanja Vučinić: Crisis management experience. The crisis communication projects on which I worked with the SVA agency team were my main inspiration to explore this topic, so much so that I even wrote a doctoral thesis on the subject. The book is a natural extension of that, and now I am very pleased that I can share the knowledge I gained with everyone who might find it useful.
Media Marketing: Do modern times bring new crises?
Sanja Vučinić: Yes, they bring a great number of changes at lightning speed, and organizations must adapt to these changes even faster. Sometimes they fail, and then delayed problems turn into crises. Moreover, the public’s expectations are increasing, necessitating more open communication. And if we add to this the trends in the development of digital media, which transmit news as it happens, it’s clear that the response to any crisis must be much faster – but not rash.
Media Marketing: What was your greatest challenge while exploring crisis communication?
Sanja Vučinić: How to bring order to the chaos produced by a crisis was the main challenge. Working on a variety of cases, I’ve seen that some of the rules are the same for all. My goal was to make a universal manual for strategic communication, which could be beneficial to all organizations, regardless of their activity and the type of crisis they are facing. Another important challenge in the analysis of a large number of communication strategies was to find a mechanism for the selection of the most effective strategy for each specific crisis.
Media Marketing: Could you give us some advice on how we can avoid a crisis?
Sanja Vučinić: By being well prepared and proactive. Research has shown that the preparedness of an organization reduces the number of crises with which they are confronted, in the same way that the installation of a security system reduces the number of burglaries. In addition, statistics show that about 2/3 of crises are of the smouldering crises category – those that could be prevented before they escalate. Monitoring changes in the environment and the existence of a contingency plan, with a list of potential crises and their symptoms, helps organizations to recognize and avoid such crises in time. A part of every good plan includes regular training. So organizations that regularly train their people in communication skills and maintain good relations with their target audiences and the media will not be paralyzed when a crisis strikes.
Media Marketing: How can a company prepare for and foresee potential crises?
Sanja Vučinić: They can engage their own “internal terrorists”. It’s a model for predicting crises, whereby the key people of the organization are given the role of internal terrorists, whose aim is to destroy the organization. In my experience working with clients, using this model often results in unexpected results, because the perspective is changed. Using their knowledge of all the problems and weak points of the organization, “internal terrorists” can actually predict potential and possible crises. This is the first step in preparation – to define a list of potential crises, their likelihood and the degree of their destructive effect. The next step is to prepare a plan, or to select appropriate proactive and reactive strategies.
Media Marketing: What if we can’t avoid a crisis? What can we do when it strikes?
Sanja Vučinić: The most important thing is to become the key source of information. The organization in crisis should quickly issue its own version of the story, before public opinion regarding the crisis event is formed. That increases the likelihood that the organization’s version of the story will be accepted and that it will affect the interpretation of any further information. In addition to what’s really happening, the public’s perception of it is also important, and this perception can be influenced. One person sees the glass as half empty, the other as half full. A crisis event can be interpreted in the same way. This doesn’t mean deception, but a presentation of the crisis in such a way that it doesn’t cause unnecessary panic and rumours.
Media Marketing: Last question, what can we learn about crisis communication from your book?
Sanja Vučinić: The book gives an overview of all the phases of strategic planning through which you must pass to make a crisis plan for your organization. This includes the prediction of potential crises and detailed planning of strategic responses, key messages, and tools and channels of communication. In addition to creating your plan, the book also explains its application, through examples and processes to identify and curb the crises, as well as models and principles for effective response. In the process, the specifics of media relations are presented, as well as internal, external, rumour and virtual communication in a crisis.