Posts Tagged ‘crisis communication’


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?

Using Social Media in a Fast Paced World Requires That You Slowdown and Plan

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

by Tom Kowalski*

I recently attended the Social Convergence and The Enterprise conference held at The Graduate Center of CUNY.  I listened to more than a half dozen speakers discuss the importance of social media in their organizations.  There was one underlying message that everyone seemed to get across:  companies who try and jump on the bandwagon of social media without a concrete plan will ultimately BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas: Using Social Media in a Fast paced World Requires That You Slow Down and Plan, Tom Kowalskiend up failing with this initiative. 

There’s been a 230 percent increase in social media since 2007.  The growth is staggering. Yet, the question remains – how are companies engaging in social media successfully?  Brian Renny, CMO, Harvard Business School says we need to understand the sociology of engaging social media to connect with our audience; otherwise we’ll fall short of success.  Just because a company tweets or has a Facebook fan page, doesn’t mean the organization is successful.  It’s all how the organization is using the social media tools available to them and how they’re leveraging them to connect with the community. 

Conversations, good and bad, are happening everywhere.  As we all know, a successful public relations campaign is always well thought out and planned.  So why should this be any different with the way we handle social media?  Matt Peters, creative director, Pandemic Labs, says building a solid social media platform is essential to the organization’s success of future initiatives. Although social media has certainly changed the way we do our jobs, the core concept is still the same.  We still must identify how we communicate with our audience.

Some of the most successful PR campaigns and crisis communication resolutions in recent times were well-thought out plans that connected with the audience via social media.  As my colleague Denise Giacin points out in a recent post on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog, Jet Blue is a great example of a company using social media to manage PR communications and engagement.  When the Valentine’s Day brand disaster occurred in 2007, the company quickly turned to YouTube to connect with their customers.  Founder and former CEO, David Neeleman, went on the Internet first apologizing to the employees of Jet Blue and then to their customers for going against everything the company stands for.  He ensured something like this will never happen again.  The quick response and admittance of fault allowed the public to forgive the airline and move on. 

Jenny Dervin, director of corporate communications stated that the company built the brand on goodwill through daily engagement and cashed in on that when the disaster occurred.  Dervin said it’s important that you’re proactive with social media on daily basis and people will be more forgiving, should a crisis occur.  Another important point Dervin made is that social media allowed the company to directly speak with their audience, rather than using traditional media channels as a middle man.  People perceive the company as being more genuine and sincere when the message is direct.

So before you send that tweet, or create a fan page, have a concrete method that parallels the goals of your business and/or your campaign or crisis and do your research. Once you have the appropriate channels in place remain sincere and proactive when connect with constituents.  Otherwise, if you jump in too soon without thinking, the chances of your success with social media or handling crisis communication will diminish.

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*Bio: As a Senior Account Manager at BurrellesLuce, Tom Kowalski works closely with New York-based clients and PR agencies. Tom brings extensive knowledge of the PR industry with more than 7 years of agency experience. He hopes to stimulate readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas by sharing useful information related to the communications industry and business in general, as well as different perspectives on customer service. LinkedIn: Tom Kowalski Twitter: @BurrellesLuce Facebook: BurrellesLuce