A business crisis is not a new phenomenon, it has been known since the beginning of time; what is essentially new is how the aspect of a crisis had morphed with the times as we reached the 3S age (Search, Social & Smartphone) aka the digital age, writes Joe Ghantous, CEO of Right Service digital agency.
Before the birth and growth of social media, companies and PR professionals used to manage a crisis based on the “Golden Hour” (being the first 60 minutes of a crisis), but today this hour had changed into golden moments. Just imagine how much content can be posted, shared and re-shared online in just 60 minutes. Here is when the real challenge begins!
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A crisis today cannot be dealt with or managed “on the spot”; it is a long process that entails activities to be taken before and during a crisis. “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe,” rightly said Abraham Lincoln.
Although crisis are invariably accompanied by pain, we can also learn a lesson from a crisis. As the saying goes, “Don't waste a good crisis”.
During my long experience in digital marketing at Right Service, I came out with a set of actions that can help you before, during and after a crisis.
Allow me to share with you some of the actions that should be embraced before any crisis, as preventive actions:
- Social Listening: The first and foremost preparation action is having a social listening process where you can set up online tracking of the main keywords, phrases and names associated with your brand. Thus you’ll be aware of any possible crisis ahead of time.
- Media List: Prevention is better than Cure, so why not having an up to date media list of the main media outlets and getting the contact details of the relevant reporter so you can directly communicate any vital piece of information to the right person and save time.
- Ready statement: If the facts are not publicly shared, then there is a silo of opportunity for rumor to gather momentum. Therefore having a media statement is an invaluable part of your communications crisis toolbox.
- Moderating public commentary: Team work and internal information flow is way to victory. Have a team member watch the public conversation, and report directly to the management.
At the battlefield, it’s time for action. You are done with the preparations, now it’s play time.
Keep in mind that with smart actions and a transparent approach, you can turn a crisis into an opportunity.
Here below are the main actions to be taken in parallel, during the crisis:
- Brief internal stakeholders first: Agile and effective communication is a must during a crisis. Before you brief the media, brief internal stakeholders, by giving them a short outline of the crisis and what action you are taking. The golden rule is to leave a five-minute gap between internal and external release.
- One face, one voice: The consistency of face and voice is critical during a crisis. It is vital at this point to have one spokesperson who must be an impressive media performer, knowledgeable of the facts and all updates and be able to instill confidence to do all media interviews throughout the crisis process.
- Prepare the nasty questions: Before thinking on going public, brainstorm the top 10 nasty questions that could possibly be asked by a reporter and prepare answers to each.
- Be social media ready: Do not wait for the media to post the news. Take the first step and share your press release on your website and across your social networks, repurposing the content of the statement for each channel. And why not leverage social and live video to control the story.
- Shifting the social narrative: Be proactive and create your own crisis hashtag, or use a trending one if it’s positive. This hashtag should be used when answering all the public’s concerns
- Ask support from influencers: Remember, during a crisis you need to have maximum share of voice online to sway public opinion, so who can take charge of such publicity more than real social media influencers. Take action by asking them to step into the social media conversations.
- Engaging with journalists: Stay in touch with media outlets and journalists and provide them with on real time news and facts so they will help you correct the record if fake news is being shared online.
When the storm is over, it’s time to check the harm it has caused and take future decisions.
Your data analyst and media team need to provide a full evaluation of the crisis from a public relations and social media perspective shortly after it has abated. This report should include emotion, share of voice, online public mentions, hashtags reach, website traffic, social media growth/reduction, media mentions, most shared angles of the crisis and overall narrative evaluation.
Although crises are invariably accompanied by pain, we can also learn a lesson from a crisis. As the saying goes, “Don't waste a good crisis”.
Just sit down and evaluate what happened from start to end with reporting the morale, trust, reputational and long term organizational damage that have been inflicted and draft them into a report on lessons learned with a sum up on how to avoid a similar crisis in the future.