The phrase “24/7 news cycle” feels cliché at this point. It’s no longer a novel issue but a way of life. Tweets go live seconds after an incident happens – sometimes even before a company realizes what’s occurred. Before they know it, it can spread and spiral into a full blown crisis.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for brands to have a crisis communications plan in place that fits the nature of today’s media environment. They need to be ready to roll the second something happens, or risk losing control of the narrative. It’s simply unacceptable be silent as you scramble to get a strategy together while everyone else in the world is talking about a situation concerning your brand.
Here are a few examples of the steps you can take before a crisis hits to be more prepared if one does.
- Establish roles & responsibilities. As you begin to map out your crisis communications plan, it will be important to assign roles and responsibilities to key players. Who will be in charge of crafting a statement? Who needs to approve all communications? Who will man the social media channels? Who will share accurate information with the media? Who will disseminate information to employees, customers, shareholders and other stakeholders? Not knowing these roles ahead of time can create a chaotic environment should a crisis hits. By the time you figure it out, chances are everyone will be wondering what’s taking so long – or worse, multiple people might take charge of the same responsibility which is not only inefficient but can result in uncoordinated communications and actions. Depending on what types of crises your company might run into, you should make sure everyone knows what their job is should disaster strike. This expands beyond your direct communications team and into any other team that may need to be involved (IT, the C-Suite, etc.)
- Plan for every scenario. Anticipate the major crises that could hit your company. That can be anything from a widespread device malfunction, a disgruntled customer that takes their complaint viral or something extreme as death. Build out a step-by-step approach for handling each type of possible situation. How will you release an initial response? How often will you provide updates? That doesn’t mean something completely unexpected won’t hit one day, but there’s a good chance strategies for your other scenarios can be applied to it. The goal result is that you have a template approach for possible crises that can be applied as soon as something happens.
- Be expert monitors. Having all the plans in the world in place won’t make a difference if you fail to notice something went wrong in a timely fashion. Many times, we’ve gone to a brand’s social media channel to see their response to something happening and been greeted with nothing. Brands need to be the one responding and handing out accurate information. To do that – you need to be ready when an incident occurs. If you have a social media team, they’re likely in the know about monitoring tools that allow you to not only follow mentions of your company but also any other keywords or hashtags you want to track. And go beyond the main social networks – negative commentary can pop up anywhere from Reddit to product review sites. Someone should be monitoring social chatter all throughout the day to catch anything before it explodes.
Time is of the essence in today’s always-on news cycle. Not only do you need to be ahead of a crisis when it happens, but you need to have a firm plan in place to continue to share up-to-date information – or else risk others sharing misinformation on your behalf. By preparing as much as you can in advance, you can help deal with an incident from the second it happens and stay in control of the message.
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