Posts Tagged ‘crisis communications’


14 Tips for Building Your Social Media Crisis Communications Plan

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
photo courtesy PRNews

photo courtesy PRNews

How long would it take you to get your CEO on the phone at 4pm on a Friday or during a holiday? That was one of the questions Dallas Lawrence (@dallaslawrence) posed during his session, “Crisis and Reputation Management in the Social Age” at the PRNews Media Relations Next Practices Conference last week in Washington, D.C.

One key takeaway from Lawrence included this quote: “From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, good PR efforts have not changed. We are just so tied up in the new platforms that are out there, we forget the basic media relations practices.”

No matter how good your communication department is, it matters how you handle situations as they arise. You could do nothing wrong in today’s social environment and still have a crisis develop; you must be ready for that.

One example that Lawrence mentioned was when someone hacked the AP Twitter account to say there had been a bombing at the White House. Within seconds of that Tweet, the stock market declined for almost 30 minutes until people realized it wasn’t true.  When a crisis such as this occurs, Lawrence suggests looking at three roles social and digital media play during a crisis.

First, social media is an instigator. Were there not a social platform that allows us to send out our every thought, or record every stupid thing that happens, the crisis wouldn’t have occurred.

The next role is that of accelerant. A similar crisis may have happened 20 years ago, but it would not have metastasized so quickly without social media. So Lawrence stresses we must be prepared to act immediately instead of waiting and seeing.

The third and most important role social media plays is extinguisher. We can use social media effectively before, during, and after a crisis to mitigate the damage, and in some cases actually eliminate the crisis.

Social media continues to evolve and grow. There are more than 500 million users on Twitter, more than one billion users on Facebook, and four billion videos viewed on YouTube per day. Everyone knows a social media presence is necessary, so everyone is bombarded with content, and just because you posted a video or press release on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean that anyone cares or that anyone sees it.  Your message must be spot on.

Lawrence stated that 79 percent of companies believe they are only 12 months from a crisis, and 50 percent of those companies believe it will happen in the digital space. The biggest issue facing companies today is the inability to respond effectively to new media (including social media). And yet, only a third of businesses have a digital crisis plan.

If you need to develop a digital crisis plan from scratch, or if you just want to refine your existing plan, here are 14 lessons from Lawrence on how to handle that social media crisis.

1. Once a crisis breaks out on social media, identify your influencers, as they are most likely to impact the conversation. All people in social and digital are not the same, so make sure you know which people have the ability to shape decisions about your company.

2. Actively monitor your reputation and the activities of your protagonist(s) or advocate(s).

3. Avoid the information vacuum. Information spreads as soon as it’s available, regardless of its veracity. You can’t have a press conference every other hour; you have to release news in real time.

4. Develop a clear, effective and platform-appropriate message. Be where your crisis is happening. Craft an appropriate message for the platform on which you respond. If something is happening on Twitter, respond via Twitter first before sending out a press release.

5. Own your brand in social media before someone else does. People are actively stalking and brand jacking.  You should know not only your corporate entity’s brand, but all of your subsidiary brands.

6. A majority of journalists use Twitter for sources. Journalists are getting their news from Twitter in real-time before verifying the source of the story.

7. Make sure to include people, not logos, on your social media accounts. No one wants to engage with a logo, especially in a crisis. We want to talk and hear from someone.

8. Integration is key. It is critical to integrate your crisis communication plan across all channels.

9. Know what you are talking about. Once you lose the credibility it is really tough to get it back.

10. When you blow it, own up to it quickly.

11. When all else fails, don’t forget humor. When you have really gotten in too deep, the best way to recover is humor.

12. Integrate paid and earned media.

13. Have clear employee rules and training for social media engagement.

14. Don’t forget your secret weapon: your employees. They can be your most powerful allies online if you engage and arm them in time.

Do you have a crisis communications plan and would you be prepared to handle a crisis situation at 4 pm on a Friday? How do you manage the speed at which news spreads on social media?

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Expect Anything and Everything: Crisis Communications When a Man Falls From a Stadium

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Flickr user mark.watmough

Flickr user mark.watmough

When a man fell from the top deck of Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday in Buffalo, N.Y., it’s easy to wonder whether the Buffalo Bills PR team had an action plan in place for such an odd occurrence. The man slid down the railing, flipped backwards, and fell about 30 feet, landing atop and injuring another spectator. This situation serves as an excellent reminder that, thorough though your crisis communication plan may seem, it could probably be a lot more comprehensive. In re-thinking your plan, take a look at what we know about how the team handled this situation.

React fast

As always, a minimal reaction time is essential. Reports say that a staff member responded immediately, and emergency personnel joined soon after, removing the injured men to the hospital. Once the injured men were removed, staff wisely addressed the uninjured fans who had just witnessed the accident. The Bills offered some fans in the vicinity the chance to view the rest of the game from a suite. While only some accepted, offering an immediate solution or an alternative to those affected demonstrates Bills reps acknowledged the situation, showed consideration, and took action.

Take a firm stance that reflect organization rules

Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon issued a statement the day after the game, decisively condemning the man’s actions as “irresponsible” and in violation of the Fan Code of Conduct. Brandon then banned the man who fell from ever returning to Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills not only responded to the incident within 24 hours, they took a clear, common-sense but no-nonsense stand without shying away from the incident or making light of it.

Though they addressed the situation head on, chances are they weren’t prepared for an incident such as this one. The key is that they stayed true to the rules and ideals of their brand.

Keep a tight lid on released information

Other than official statements and some news stories, there are few details emerging. The names of the injured men, their specific injuries, what exactly happened before, during, and after the fall aren’t readily available. Though we must speculate on what occurred, both in the stadium and in the communications department, it’s clear the Bills expertly contained the story. This is yet another benefit reaped from reacting fast: the story is controlled.

And of course, the key to reacting fast is being prepared. While you may not be prepared for the exact situation, it’s important that all the key players know how to act in a crisis situation and, if they don’t, they should know who to consult or where to look.

Refining your crisis response procedure on a regular basis can only help keep you and your team primed. In addition to creating detailed plans, be sure to designate and train a spokesperson, and maintain a consistent system of notifications and alerts before and during the fact. After the crisis, debrief and assess, and apply it to future crises.

How do you prepare for anything and everything? How do you ensure your crisis plans run smoothly when the unexpected happens?

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PR Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving

Monday, November 18th, 2013

PR Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving Share of Voice BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas

It’s holiday season and you’re stuck (or excited to be) hosting Thanksgiving. Though you probably should have started planning your T-Day PR campaign in July, the week before the big day is as good a time as any to plan your Thanksgiving objectives, PR-style.

Set your goals

As with any PR campaign, the first step is to establish measurable goals. The most common Thanksgiving goal? Feed X number of people. To determine how much of each dish you’ll need, factor in the AVE (Appetite Value Extrapolation) (apologies to the Barcelona Principles) for each dish: determine the average serving size (A), multiply by number of attendees (X), then multiply all that by 1.5 (gluttony quotient) . 1.5AX=Z *

* AVE can drastically underestimate or overestimate standard appetite, especially in the presence of college-age males, and does not account for food allergies, likes, dislikes, or strange diet requests.

If your goal is to just make it through the day with your sanity and reputation intact, you’ll need to drill down into data points to make that measurable, such as: number of dishes broken, number of remarks about your housekeeping skills/cooking skills/weight,  tone of said remarks, prominence of said remarks (how loudly were they spoken? How many people were in the room? Did anyone nod in agreement?), share of voice (how much of the conversation did these remarks account for?), and other customized measurements.

Outreach

To convince people to attend your Thanksgiving (or to discourage their presence), reach out to your communication channels to establish your message. Recruit Mom or a sibling to spread the word that your Thanksgiving will rival Martha Stewart or Pinterest in class and aesthetics.

Since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide this year, consider giving this year’s celebration a fresh angle: latke-stuffed turkey, matzoh ball stuffing, or a trendy, hashtag-worthy name like #Thanksgivukkah or #Hanukkgiving.

Focus on the features and benefits of your particular shindig. For example: “Guaranteed Turducken,” “Bacon cornbread stuffing,” or “Gluten-free vegan organic dairy-free lasagna,” depending on your audience.

Turn your kitchen crisis into an opportunity

Whether you’re the only one in your Thanksgiving Preparation Department or if you have the help of a number of minions, there’s a good chance of Thanksgiving crisis, say, dropping the turkey, a minor kitchen fire, or a failure to adhere to the promised schedule. This will likely lead to a number of inquiries from hungry bystanders, and if you’re going to avoid T-Day disaster, it’s time to go into crisis mode.

Whatever you do, don’t respond with “No comment.” However, you probably shouldn’t lie with a “No, of course I didn’t drop the turkey.” That will cause more fallout when someone discovers pet fur and an errant penny plastered to their crispy turkey skin.

Instead, turn it into an opportunity:  A simple, “It’s all under control,” or a more creative “I’m trying out a new spice rub.”

Word will spread quickly so you’ll need to contain the story. Don’t discuss the direct problem – turkey on the floor – but discuss your overall strategies. “I’ve been preparing Thanksgiving dinner for years, and have developed a comprehensive system for ensuring hygiene while bringing out the optimal flavors of this over-sized poultry. I assure you I’m constantly working to assess any problems that arise and continue to create safeguards to protect against similar situations arising in the future.”

Run that turkey under some water, sprinkle some salt on it, and remind yourself that when the Pilgrims ate their turkey, it was probably dirtier, and they were fine, weren’t they?

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PRSA-NJ Panel Discussion: PR Strategy Tools for Effective Online News

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Colleen Flood*

Effective Online News

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the PRSA-NJ panel discussion on Tools of the Trade:  Effective Online News sponsored by BurrellesLuce.  The event was held at the beautiful Monmouth University campus and had a great turnout of emerging journalists and up-and-coming publicists. 

The panel had one consistent message across the board for students and professionals in attendance: 

  • Know who you are pitching.
  • Know your news hook.
  • Be relevant, specific and succinct.

Judith Feeney —  digital editor for NJ Press Media,  Asbury Park Press (app.com), Daily Record (dailyrecord.com), the Home News Tribune, and the Courier News — started the discussion by reminding us there are a vast number of new tools and a lot less time to get the job done.  She suggested that PR and media relations professionals need to become familiar with all of the tools out there.  Know who you are pitching and don’t blanket your pitch to multiple people.  Look at the type of material the publication and journalist produces and tailor your pitch accordingly.

Christopher Sheldon, the Long Branch editor of Patch.com, a hyperlocal publication, said to make sure to include the who, what, where, when and why in the first paragraph.  If it’s not local to his area, he cannot write about it.  His audience is looking for community news.

Christy Potter Kass, assistant editor of The Alternative Press, agreed with Chris and said her publication is also hyperlocal and stories must tie into the values and interests of local readers.  She emphasized not to confuse hyperlocal publications with national publications.  When asked the definition of “hyperlocal,” Christy said the more local the story the better.  News must be about something going on in town or have a connection to the community.

Joan Bosisio, group vice president of Stern & Associates said that (with all the recent layoffs) PR people have an opportunity to help journalists, who are working on stories, do their jobs.  Journalists are now doing more than one job and by presenting them with not only the story, but the materials to help them write the story (e.g., video, spokespeople and social media) you make their job easier.

Kristine Brown oversees PR for St. Barnabas Health, the state’s largest hospital system.  She gave us some real life examples of crisis communications and advised that essential PR skills have not changed with all the new online tools available.  Kristine said you still need to know your audience, know your story, cultivate relationships with the media (this has helped her in time of crisis) and move at the same pace the news is moving.

As for journalists and PR professionals alike, essential skills include: spelling, grammar, and attention to detail. The ability to take your own photos, as a journalist, will also help prospective media professionals stand out.

How are you using online tools to help you connect with journalists and the media? As a member of the media, what other ways can PR and communications professionals work with you to get their stories out? Please leave your comments below on BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

***

*Bio: Colleen Flood has been a sales consultant with BurrellesLuce for over 12 years and is eager to become a more integrated part of the social-public relations community. She primarily handles agency relations in the New York and New Jersey metro-area. She is not only passionate about work, but also about family, friends, and the Jersey Shore. Twitter: @cgflood LinkedIn: Colleen Flood Facebook: BurrellesLuce

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Using Social Media to Communicate and Market Around Natural Events

Friday, August 26th, 2011

EarthquakeThe ground moved on Tuesday, here in D.C. and along the East Coast. I happened to be the only one in the small BurrellesLuce Washington, D.C office at that time. Needing to figure-out what was happening, I turned to Twitter. MyFoxBoston.com posted an interesting visual of how the over 40,000 tweets spread across the US

I know all the Californians reading this, are still laughing about our reaction to a 5.9 earthquake, but this is a terrorism-scared town and coast (on the cusp of the 10 year anniversary of 9/11) and we don’t usually have earthquakes. There were a lot of funny and useless tweets, which had Howard Kurtz commenting on the media’s feeding frenzy of the event in “Washington’s Earthquake Farce” in The Daily Beast.

However, there were some organizations using new media to help communicate to the public. Concerned about my limited service, I tweeted Verizon Wireless, who answered my question quite quickly. Because many phone lines from various companies were jammed or down, people were encouraged to use social media or texting to communicate.   

Several other organizations used social media to push-out the most current service information.

Crisis Information
The earthquake caused several spires to fall from the National Cathedral, which is home to many national events and presidential funerals. The cathedral quickly created an impressive website page with a Twitter stream, information on the damage and a donation form for help paying for the repairs.

Round-up the Customers
Many stranded workers gave retailers an opportunity to offer earthquake specials or let customers know they were open via their Facebook pages and Twitter. I thought the $5.80 specials were a nice tie-in to the 5.8-magnitude earthquake.

What other creative social media marketing have you seen centered on a natural event? Are you prepared to communicate through social media in a crisis situation?

The East Coast is now waiting for Hurricane Irene to hit this weekend. I wonder what the Twitter-sphere will be saying about it and which bar will be the first to offer a special on hurricanes.

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