In a digitally connected world, there is no time to waste when a crisis strikes. With every passing second, a negative mention online could blow up into something viral and eventually tarnish the reputation of your brand. Your PR team would have to come in to do some major damage control. Hence, crisis communication and issues management are highly important skills that should be in every PR professional’s toolbox.
To equip you with the skills you need in managing a major digital crisis, Meltwater has put together a Complete Guide to Crisis Communications so that you can be an expert in this field. Giving you a quick preview of what you can find in the guide, here are some Do’s and Don’ts when facing a digital crisis:
Have a contingency plan at hand even before your brand faces a real crisis
By prepping ahead of time and anticipating worst-case scenarios before they occur, you will remove some of the stress that comes when a real crisis hits. Contingency planning includes identifying potential risks and challenges your brand might face as well as brainstorming possible solutions and action plans to overcome them.
While planning possible solutions, outline what internal steps to take when a crisis hits. This includes crafting your intended media response as well as content ideas to support your actions. It is also essential to monitor industry trends and competitor news to keep yourself informed of what is happening in your industry, especially any negative events that could affect your brand.
Be transparent and authentic in your media release statements – Own up to your mistakes and be clear about how you would address it
“The one piece of advice I always give to communications teams and organisations is: ‘Remember to be human first’,” as shared by Gerard Blank, Director of The Agency.
In other words, remember to be genuine and show compassion in your key messages, especially if the crisis involves loss of life or injury. Take responsibility for what has happened and address what steps are being taken to overcome the situation. It is important to be as clear and transparent as possible so that it leaves no room for the press and public to ask more questions, make assumptions or have misconceptions.
Plan what each response will address and how much time allocated between responses
Planning the timeline and speed at which you respond to a crisis will often shape how the media and your consumers perceive your brand over time. It also includes planning how much information you would give for each response.
For instance, as soon as a crisis strikes and news on the issue goes viral, it is advisable to send out your first response (be it a “tweet” or Facebook post) almost immediately to inform the world that you are aware of what has happened. Over time, gradually update your audience and provide them with more information about the issue as often as possible.
Learn from your crisis and update your plans accordingly
Once a crisis has finally subsided and all the loose ends have been tied up, it may be a little too early to celebrate just yet.
Take some time to review what has happened and outline lessons that can be learned from the events that have occurred. Assess how successful your crisis management plan was and whether there was any backlash or unexpected outcome to take note of. Monitoring and collecting data on your online brand mentions could help you understand how the media and public reacted during the crisis.
React immediately to a crisis without a holistic view of all its related events
Never dive into a crisis headfirst without knowing the facts or knowing what exactly is going on. Doing your research on the situation is always vital, be it understanding what the press is saying about your brand or what your consumers are talking about on social media. It also means identifying the exact root cause of the problem so that you know what countermeasures to take. By understanding the situation as much as possible, your company would be able to make statements and decisions in relation to the crisis with ease and confidence.
Wait for the crisis to die down and hope that it will pass
Ignoring a crisis will ultimately make your brand look bad. As said by Warren Buffet, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” This highlights just how quickly your brand’s image can be damaged in times of crisis. If your company doesn’t act on the situation, your brand would be perceived as ignorant and indifferent by consumers.
Not all crisis would appear as a crisis from the start – they could appear as an unhappy customer product review or a scandalous rumour in a tweet. Hence, it is important to detect warning signs early and manage them before they get out of hand.
Continue to share any promotional content in relation to your brand during a crisis
During a crisis, it wouldn’t be a very good idea to launch your latest Instagram contest. Or promote your newest brand ambassador. Or inform consumers of your amazing Christmas deals. It is often advisable to solely focus on addressing the issue at hand and keep everyone informed of the latest updates. Promotional content can be scheduled for a later time, once you know it is an appropriate time to step away from the crisis and resume your usual marketing efforts.
Use the same response to every crisis that hits
Remember that every crisis is different. And every response should be adjusted accordingly to meet the nature and severity of the issue. This brings us back to an earlier point on having a contingency plan not just for one situation but multiple scenarios which could possibly occur. This ensures that your brand is ready for anything.
Start planning your crisis communications strategy
Ultimately, no brand can escape a crisis. And the sooner you act on it when it occurs, the better it is to keep tabs of the situation. The strategies you carry out to manage the crisis will have a great impact on how your brand is perceived by your existing and prospective customers, both in the short and long term. Check out the Complete Guide to Crisis Communications and equip yourself with invaluable tips and skills in managing your brand during a crisis.