Recently, some of the world’s biggest brands have faced crises…in communication. It is understood that brands cannot necessarily predict a crisis like an oil spill, brake malfunctions or public outcry on privacy settings within a social network–but regardless of unforeseen crises, companies should be prepared to take quick and effective action.
A crisis communications blog run by Levick Strategic Communications suggests with BP’s recent oil spill crisis that, “it may be time for BP to go back to the basics” with their communications to media outlets. Basic tactics will provide a vital foundation for communication in a crisis, but with today’s real-time news updates, communication requires more than the just the basics–keeping in mind that social media has changed the way we receive news.
Crisis communications messaging via both PR and social media tactics should be utilized in order to deliver a clear, comprehensive and relevant message.
Following are some tips for fine tuning your Crisis Communications Plan:
- Have an Updated Plan: A crisis communications plan is one of the most important aspects to consider because it helps companies prepare a unified message BEFORE a crisis arises.
Heather Whaling of PRTini reiterates the importance of the crisis communications plan: “Having a set of approved procedures in place AHEAD OF TIME is key to responding in a timely manner and protecting the company’s brand. You don’t want to waste time trying to agree on an approval process as people share their disdain for your company via Twitter.”
You want to protect your company’s brand. Have a plan developed BEFOREHAND that reiterates the importance and value of your brand, as this allows a company to present itself in the best light amidst a crisis.
- Respond with Immediacy: Gerald Baron, a crisis communication expert once said, “If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant.”
Responding quickly is imperative in today’s media landscape. If your company is not responding to an issue, a product user, customer, or media outlet could already be talking about it on social networks. The crisis communication plan helps prepare companies for an immediate response.
- Say You’re Sorry: BP’s recent crisis provides PR and social media practitioners with a lesson in crisis communications: it’s important to acknowledge a level of fault with the issue.
Danny Brown discusses various key opportunities BP could have leveraged with their recent oil spill. In this instance, taking advantage of opportunities during a crisis could have prevented the extensive negativity surrounding the oil spill.
In an interview on Arik Hanson’s Communications Conversations blog, Brown suggests how BP should have responded: “What could they have done differently? …Acknowledgment that they screwed up big time, and what their immediate plans are for the area and wildlife, and who they’re going to be discussing future strategies with.”
Acknowledging the issue and how a company is planning to rectify it are extremely important when communicating to customers, media and the public. Utilizing various social networks can help get the message disseminated to your key publics. Following are some examples of how BP could have leveraged social media to deal with the oil spill crisis:
- Bloggers – utilize bloggers as a key media by inviting them to news briefings
- Flickr – communicate with photos displaying the cleanup efforts being executed
- Video – use a live streaming video service like Ustream to allow the public to watch the cleanup process firsthand
- Twitter – keep the public informed with up-to-date information on how the process is going, while also addressing specific public conversation and inquiries directly
- Change the Channel: Utilizing both PR and social media tactics in crisis communications enables companies to present their messages to various audiences. Jeffrey L. Cohen highlights the importance of building social media into a pr crisis communications plans. Some of his key tips include:
- Create tweets that respond to issues with a link to a statement.
- Determine if you will respond directly to other Twitter users, and if so, in what tone.
- Know when to take conversations off-line.
Companies cannot predict crises. Yet, if a crisis does happen…is your company prepared?