When was the last time your business held a meeting to discuss crisis communications? In the digital age, businesses and brands live in a world of uncertainty, a world where, in the blink of an eye, an unexpected controversy can arise out of casual communications. Will you be prepared for this when it happens to you?
We all know how quickly communication travels. A negative tweet, an off-handed public comment, or an innocent but perhaps ill-advised encounter caught on film can create a public relations nightmare for an unprepared business. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can create a firestorm of negative media coverage and widespread criticism. Like it or not, the facts are that the audience is now global and online reputations are very fragile. It really only takes one mistake to cause irreparable damage to your company’s image.
What is considered a crisis, anyway? Simply put, a crisis is any situation that threatens the reputation of your brand. Usually, a crisis is brought on by negative media attention that spurs public outrage.
More often than not, when a controversy involving a brand erupts on social media, a well-meaning social media manager will ignore the initial public outcry, hoping that the problem will go away. Unfortunately, this tactic often does little to quell public outrage and will only make the brand’s circumstances ripe for the Streisand Effect, which causes even more people to take notice and create negative content about your company.
Once the negative content has started to spread on Twitter or Facebook, all it takes is for a popular user to share it for the content to go viral. When negative content goes viral, it’s often picked up by traditional media, such as TV news stations, radio, magazines, or newspapers. This is especially true on a slow news day.
In the digital age, customers and other members of the public demand a radical level of transparency, and high customer expectations are attached to every interaction. When things go wrong, they’re not shy about using their social media to highlight their grievances, sometimes more than once. Angry rants against a company that has offended somebody or is perceived to have wronged them can go viral.
There are many ways to garner negative attention, but there are also many ways to make things right. As a brand, it’s essential to make crisis communications and reputation management an integral part of your integrated marketing communications plan.
Creating a plan or template for a crisis can ensure that you have an effective blueprint for the steps to take during what can be a very stressful situation. A crisis communications plan will include information on which team members will handle communications and who will serve as a spokesperson with the media. Typically, this will include your communications team, your CEO and others who normally would handle media inquiries. Together, this team will work together to get the message out to the public and be proactive in explaining what measures your company is taking to make things right.
Another important part of a crisis communications plan is maintaining a cohesive and unified message, while reacting swiftly to negative coverage. A big part of public relations is getting the truth out to the media — be it on social media or a major new outlet —- as quickly as possible. Your team should be prepared to interact with both mainstream media and with individuals on social media. It’s possible that a swift and apologetic reaction – one that is honest and forthright – will not only quell anger, but also gain you some new brand advocates in the process. Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology paired with a proactive approach, when responding to a crisis situation.
A plan for crisis communications will help your leadership stay on message, build an image of professionalism, and ultimately, prevail in the digital age. A crisis can be eye-opening and cause a great deal of stress, but your brand can often recover, and even flourish, if you take the time to create a plan.
Are you interested in learning more about improving your integrated marketing communications? Do you need more information on preparing for a crisis? Please contact us. We can answer any questions you may have and help you take your communications to the next level.