Lauri Hennessy, the Pacific Northwest Executive Director of One Love, a national foundation focused on promoting healthy relationships, discusses crisis communication and the importance of being prepared for potential crises in the nonprofit sector. She emphasizes the need for preparedness, transparency, and proactive communication to maintain trust and effectively manage crises. With a well-developed crisis communication plan and a focus on building relationships with stakeholders and the media, nonprofits can navigate crises successfully and emerge stronger.
Lauri emphasizes that crises are not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Every organization will face a crisis at some point, and it is crucial to have a plan in place to handle it effectively. She highlights the need for transparency and proactive communication during times of duress, as crises can erode public trust and support for an organization. The primary goal of crisis communication is issuing a sincere and timely apology. Lauri stresses the importance of 1) apologizing quickly, 2) taking accountability, and 3) outlining the steps the organization will take to rectify the situation or prevent it from happening again.
The interview also covers the significance of the internal audience in crisis communication. Lauri believes that the internal audience, including staff, board members, and volunteers, is the most critical during a crisis. Their support and advocacy are instrumental in mitigating damage and maintaining public trust.
The discussion continues with a focus on key stakeholders, such as funders, donors, government contractors, and elected officials and how to create a matrix that outlines these stakeholders and their priorities, ensuring that communication efforts are targeted and well-coordinated. Lauri recommends developing a detailed plan with different scenarios, including the matrix that maps out the timing and methods of communication for various audiences. She emphasizes the need for fast and accurate responses in the age of social media, where information spreads rapidly.