Public Safety The First Priority
In the digital age, public relations disasters can strike at any time. No brand is immune from a negative social media post that is gaining traction or an unfavorable news story, and when an incident like this occurs, it’s imperative to act quickly and decisively to address it.
When a PR crisis erupts, the first hours and the first steps are critical. What you do during this period can determine how quickly your organization recovers – or if it recovers.
Activate Crisis Team and Command Center: In this day and age, all organizations should have a crisis plan and a crisis team in place. Immediately assemble the team to verify the facts, options and priorities. The actions taken in the first 48 hours of a PR crisis can set the outcome. Assemble a communications team to determine the messages and channels to quickly reach customers, shareholders and employees. Any public response must be in alignment with the culture and values of the company. Then, stay on top of the situation and monitor social networks inside and outside the company.
Analyze The Potential Impact Of The Situation: It’s important to understand the situation, analyzing how big or small the disaster truly is based on reach, then evaluating brand impact to guide decision-making. It’s important to look at all angles and then proceed with a more strategic plan that includes details, targets, and spends and communication delivery.
Keep It Simple: Crisis communications is not the platform to tell your entire story. Keep the plan simple and keep the messages simple. Train the crisis team regularly for these situations. Be prepared to be the leader and the voice of reason.
Key Messages for Key Stakeholders: Understand the problem, who is affected, and the potential impact. This will tell you a lot about who you need to communicate with and what you can share with them. Create a list of bulleted talking points for the crisis team. Refine those talking points for key audience segments as necessary and update the key messages as the situation evolves. Public safety is always your first concern and the first message in such situations;
Who Needs To Hear What: The information needs among stakeholder groups are not the same. This is an area where crisis planning pays dividends because you now have separate lists and channels for each stakeholder group. Now you can target key audiences with critical, customized information. Teams must determine the right level spokesperson for the issue and ensure their crisis plan is working and provide an accurate flow of information to the right people.
Make Yourself Visible and Available: It may be hard to believe in the midst of a crisis, but recovery is possible.Make sure you are visible and that the world sees you are actively engaged and communicating. No matter how distasteful the facts of the situation may be, tell the truth. If you don’t have an answer, admit it and get the answer. Truthful and timely communications are the only way to recover and restore trust and credibility. The age of spin is over.
Audit and Adjust Communications Plan: What worked and what didn’t. What resources and systems will help avert and minimize crises in the future. Does the team need more training.
Review Organization’s Policies and Procedures That Could Have Prevented or Minimized The Crisis: Crisis aversion is always the best form of crisis management. What changes can minimize crises in the future.
Build New Alliances: Before, during and after crises, reach out to potential allies who can help prevent or minimize crises in the future. Share your vision, concerns and areas of potential collaboration.
Crossbow has helped with crises aversion and management for more than 30 years. We helped with stakeholder communications surrounding the Columbine shooting in Colorado, we helped avert an international trade war over tropical timber and we are building coalitions now to tackle some of the most urgent issues of our time.