Telum Talks To: Yogendra Thavakumar, Managing Director at FOY Communications

Telum Talks To: Yogendra Thavakumar, Managing Director at FOY Communications

Yogendra Thavakumar spoke with Telum Media about the importance of effective crisis communications in a post-pandemic world, as well as some common mistakes organisations can make during a crisis.

How important is effective crisis communications in this post-pandemic world?
Effective crisis communication has always been crucial, but in today's post-pandemic, digital-savvy world, its significance has grown exponentially. With information spreading at lightning speed through digital channels, the stakes are higher than ever. A crisis can escalate rapidly if not managed effectively, potentially causing irreparable damage to reputation and trust.

In the post-pandemic landscape, where uncertainties persist, businesses must be prepared to respond swiftly and transparently to crises. The digital era demands real-time updates and engagement with stakeholders. Therefore, crisis communication is not just about damage control but also about maintaining and building trust through proactive strategies.

It's about ensuring that your organisation is seen as responsible, empathetic, and capable of handling challenges, which can ultimately determine your long-term success.

How much does the media shape public perception during a crisis?
The media plays a pivotal role in shaping public perception during a crisis. It serves as the primary source of information for many people, and the way a crisis is portrayed in the media significantly influences how the public perceives it. Media coverage can either amplify or mitigate the impact of a crisis.

We recognise the significant impact of the media as a representative of public sentiment. Our approach revolves around cultivating robust relationships with journalists and media platforms, with the aim of promoting precision in reporting and securing favourable coverage. This, in turn, serves to shape public sentiment in a positive direction.

How has the rapid growth of social media changed the way your teams approach crisis communications?
Social media has revolutionised crisis communications by adding fast, highly-interactive, and extensive dimensions to the equation. This has provided both challenges and opportunities.

On one hand, misinformation can spread rapidly on social platforms, necessitating vigilant monitoring and swift responses. Conversely, social media allows for direct engagement with stakeholders, providing a platform to convey real-time updates and address concerns.

We have adapted to the changing times by incorporating social media monitoring tools and establishing response protocols. We recognise the importance of being present and active on relevant social platforms to effectively manage crises. This includes pre-emptive planning, community engagement, and crafting concise, consistent messaging suitable for various social channels.

How does your agency adapt its crisis communications strategies when engaging with traditional and new media?
Adapting to engage with both traditional and new media is essential for comprehensive crisis communications. While traditional media outlets offer extensive reach and credibility, new media channels allow for immediate interaction and feedback.

Our strategy involves a dual approach:
  • For traditional media outlets: We emphasise proactive relationship building to ensure accurate reporting and favourable coverage. This includes providing exclusive interviews or statements to key journalists and arranging press briefings and meetings with the relevant senior editors.
  • For new media outlets: We prioritise real-time updates on social platforms, microsites, webinars, and podcasts to engage directly with stakeholders. We can also utilise multimedia content and maintain a vigilant watch on online sentiment to gauge public perception and adjust our messaging accordingly.
What are some common mistakes organisations make when dealing with the media during a crisis, and how can these be avoided?
Common mistakes during crisis communication include a lack of preparedness, often underestimating the potential for crises. To address this, organisations should conduct thorough risk assessments, develop crisis communication plans, and conduct crisis simulations in advance.

Another critical pitfall is delayed responses, which can allow rumours and misinformation to flourish, highlighting the importance of timeliness.

Additionally, transparency is a cornerstone of effective crisis communication. Organisations should be candid about the situation, acknowledging mistakes when necessary.

Consistency in messaging is equally important as conflicting messages from different spokespersons can erode credibility, emphasising the need for clear, uniform messaging across all channels from all spokespersons.

Lastly, ignoring social media is a common oversight that can lead to missed opportunities to engage and inform stakeholders. Therefore, it is essential to actively manage social media during crises.

Transparency is critical to successful crisis communications. How does your team balance the need for transparency with obligations to your clients during a crisis?
Balancing transparency with client obligations is a delicate task, but it's crucial for effective crisis communication. We prioritise open and honest communication with clients from the outset, emphasising the importance of transparency in maintaining trust.

During a crisis, we work closely with clients to determine what information can be shared without compromising legal or operational concerns. While not all details can be disclosed, we make every effort to provide stakeholders with accurate, relevant, and timely information.

Transparency, when balanced with confidentiality, helps in building credibility and ensuring that our clients' interests are best served in the long run. Our collective and extensive background in corporate communication and crisis management, coupled with my previous role in the media, uniquely positions us to navigate this delicate balance effectively.

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