10 December 2019

EFC Communications Professionals in Philanthropy Network Autumn Meeting investigates crisis communications

The EFC’s Communications Professionals in Philanthropy Network took to Athens on 20-22 November for its Autumn Meeting exploring crisis communications, hosted by the Bodossaki Foundation.

The programme placed front and centre members’ experiences in preparing for and weathering communications crises and brought together 28 participants in a safe and trusted space to hold frank conversations on the topic, and to exchange ideas, best practices and learnings.

Some of the key questions that reverberated throughout the meeting included:

  • What do foundations need to think of and do to anticipate, react and manage crises?
  • What are the lessons to be learned from the experiences of some of Europe’s foremost philanthropic institutions?
  • In looking ahead, what are the emerging risks and what sort of communications responses and strategies will they necessitate?

The meeting kicked off with a keynote by George Flassas, Senior Consultant at Ogilvy Greece, who explained that although non-profit organisations are less prone to crises than companies, in this day and age crisis management is still worth spending time and effort on. The English word crisis comes from the Greek word κρίση (krísi), which refers to the notion of ‘decision’ in close connection to the notions of ‘evaluation’ and ‘judgement’. These three elements formed the key threads throughout the meeting, and to them participants agreed on a fourth: preparation.

Mr. Flessas organised his presentation around the following points.

Before a crisis:

  • Create a crisis management plan
  • Appoint a crisis management team (make sure the CEO is included as well as Comms staff)
  • Allocate a crisis management centre
  • Create a crisis communications plan
  • Create a social media communications plan
  • Practice. Practice.

During a crisis:

  • Assess the crisis situation
  • Be first, be right, be credible
  • Speak with one voice
  • Manage the crisis in social media
  • Establish strong leadership (remember: management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things)

After the crisis:

  • Evaluate the crisis response
  • Communicate lessons learned
  • Exploit the positive aspects

Following the keynote, participants had the chance to dissect the learnings and translate the high-level framework into the foundation sphere. Through a series of case studies participants took the lead in sharing and reflecting how to build grantee capacity to navigate shifting socio-political contexts; safeguarding the reputations of individuals and organisations amid rising criticism of the sector; internal communications crisis; building communications buffers around projects; as well as stakeholder mappings and management.

Taking advantage of the location of the meeting in Athens, following the end of the programme, participants had the opportunity to visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, and learn more about the first public-private partnership of its kind in Greece, and the largest cultural/educational project ever undertaken in the country.

For more information on the Communications Professionals in Philanthropy Network contact Stefanos Oikonomou.