Posts Tagged ‘crisis management’


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?

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?

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?

Crisis Communications: A Case Study in the Making

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

by Lauren Shapiro*

Flickr Image: kbaird; Original Image: Charlie Riedel / AP

Flickr Image: kbaird; Original Image: Charlie Riedel / AP

British Petroleum has been making front page news since April 22nd as approximately 800,000 gallons of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico each day. BP was once an organization thought to be a “friendly brand in the oil business” – despite its previous disasters. But as the oil continues to spill into the summer months, and according to government officials into the fall, BP is being scrutinized now more than ever.

One might assume that companies that specialize in goods/services, particularly those that could potentially wreak havoc on the safety of the world’s inhabitants, would have a well prepared protocol for crisis situations. Furthermore, if the company had a predecessor that experienced a similar crisis (i.e., Exxon Valdez, 1989) they would sculpt this protocol by learning from the mistakes previously made. It’s highly doubtful that BP did not have a crisis communication procedure in place, but was and is it a good one?

According to Chris Lehane, Newsweek’s master of disaster, “One of the rules of thumb of crisis management is that you can never put the genie back in the bottle in terms of what the underlying issue is. People evaluate you in terms of how you handle things going forward. And obviously doing everything to be open, transparent, accessible is the type of thing that the public does look for from a corporate entity in this type of situation.”

 As the situation in the Gulf continues to unfold, BP has promised one solution after another with no success – in other words, they over promised and under delivered, a cardinal “no-no” in business or any crisis resolution. Lehane states, “If you tell people what you are going to do, and you suggest it’s going to be successful, you need to be successful. Because once you create those expectations and you don’t fulfill them, when you already have a significant credibility problem, it further degrades your credibility.”

BP’s inability to implement a successful solution to fix the spill isn’t the only thing affecting its credibility. BP came under fire during the U.S. Congressional hearings when executives from BP, Transocean, and Halliburton took turns blaming each other for the incident coined “the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.” And BP’s executives continue to make one public relations faux-pas after another: (more…)

What Do You Do When You Find Yourself at the Center of a Negative Story in the Media?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

In ancient China, soldiers would warn against impending attacks by sending smoke signals from tower to tower up to 300 miles away within just a few hours; In 1775, Paul Revere used his vocal chords and a horse on his “midnight ride” to warn of the British invasion and in the 1800’s Samuel Morse used a type of character encoding system to send 20 words per minute via radio.

Today, in just a few typed lines and a few clicks, stories are being spread around the world through social networking sites circling the globe in a matter of seconds. And the vivid details from personal accounts through citizen journalism and the proliferation of camera phones are adding more truth and authenticity to these stories. In some cases the immediacy and extra scrutiny can lead to positive things (e.g., shedding light on last summer’s Iranian protests). In others, it can be

Image: sinotechblog.com.cndevastating for the main character or brand – causing irreparable harm to their reputations. The BP oil spill in the Gulf, the English goalies blunder against the U.S. team in the opening round of this year’s  World Cup, or any Lindsey Lohan story these days are just a few stories that go against the old PR adage, “Any publicity is good publicity as long as you spell my name right.”   

Celebrities have been putting up with this type of scrutiny, to some degree, for years with paparazzi constantly photographing unsuspecting beach goers wearing unflattering bathing suits or in compromising positions. But when it happens to our politicians, business leaders, corporations, athletes or just everyday people, how does one cope with the instant barrage of viral videos, bloggers, or tweeters, and the repercussions that follow? At least bad weather would force the ancient smoke signalers to take a break every now and then. Barring a colossal Internet crash, today’s perpetual flow of information continues to tarnish reputations worldwide (and many times rightfully so).

 Today crisis communications is becoming increasingly difficult with public relations and marketing people scrambling to keep up with today’s technology.  One lesson that Southwest Airlines taught the PR community back in February is to always keep a close eye on what the media, especially social media, is saying about your company. When movie director Kevin Smith was kicked off a Southwest Flight on Feb 18, 2010, essentially for being too fat, he tweeted about the episode and the next day the story was all over the Internet. However, Southwest wasted no time and offered an apology to Smith via Twitter and posted an explanation of their policy on its own blog before the story started to trend.

Maybe there should be an island for all the victims of negative social media fall out, where they can live in solitude and where there are no computers, web access, or mobile devices until their names are mercifully pushed down the search engine results list.  Even then, it probably wouldn’t take long before helicopters were swirling overhead taking video and instantly downloading the footage online.  A more practical approach would be to prevent the crisis from spreading further by paying close attention to what is being said in all forms of media and to who’s saying it.

The “who are you with attitude?” is old school now. So how are you preparing your clients and executives for “the every one is a reporter mentality?” Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.