From the Equifax data breach to United Airlines’ viral passenger removal controversies, from GE’s stock woes to the pipeline oil spill in the Gulf, corporate crises are seemingly rampant. And these are only a few of those big enough to make mainstream headlines. But a crisis is a crisis – no matter how big or small the trouble, and regardless of how big or small your company – and it requires a strategic, well-planned and executed crisis communications plan to ensure your organization survives with its reputation intact.
For junior PR professionals, helping handle crisis communications may seem daunting. Don’t fear. Your everyday role has already armed you with the fundamentals to support your team and add critical value. Here are three tips to effectively draw from your “ordinary” work during “extraordinary” circumstances.
3 Crisis Communications Plan Tips:
Tip #1: Stay on top of the news cycle.
To succeed in today’s PR and marketing world, you not only need to be a media junkie but one that calmly thrives in the chaos of a 24-hour news cycle. The current news landscape is difficult to tackle, as made apparent by the almost unnecessary amount of erroneous articles and overall industry gossip. Frequently monitoring headlines and “listening” to social chatter is likely a key part of your day to day. You’re charged with knowing what’s going on in the world and you do it in a variety of ways: reading the actual paper (print lives!), setting up keyword alerts, watching the news, constantly scrolling through social feeds, and more. This job is even more important during times of crisis.
Your close eye on and quick sharing of breaking news, comments on message boards, etc., as it relates to your company and the issue(s) at hand will help keep your team informed. Take it a step further, and offer analyses of articles and provide ideas and recommendations for reacting (or not).
Tip #2: Check your checklist, and then check it again.
Do you live and die by lists? Media lists, priority lists? A crisis communications plan is chock full of lists – things to remember, protocols and processes, chains of approvals, and the list goes on. Be a master of detail. Double and triple check them to ensure nothing falls through the proverbial cracks. It keeps your team on track, but more importantly, it helps keep you a couple of steps ahead, which is invaluable during a crisis when “waiting” isn’t an option. Being proactive is a revered quality.
Tip #3: The future is automated, but you don’t have to be.
Of course, there are tools to help us keep on and ahead of tasks. Take Blink OnDemand Crisis PR, a first in the world of Crisis Planning Software. This cloud-based software allows its users to manage an entire PR crisis from start to finish. Could it be the future of the industry? Perhaps. But this “brain in a box” is just that: close to the real thing but not quite. The integral, and often forgotten beauty of a crisis (I know, it’s an oxymoron) is that while humans can mess everything up, they can fix it just as well.
Take Michael Bishop, British Midland chairman. In 1989, he was faced with his own crisis when a Boeing 737-400 jet crashed, killing 47 people. Bishop handled the crisis with a level of composure that is remembered and revered by crisis professionals today. He drove straight to the crash, made himself available for any and all press, and personally facilitated the medical care of 74 injured people. Now, a brain in a box can tell you to do all of that, but it can’t tell you how to empathize, when to go the extra mile or how late into the night to work to get the job done.With crises happening all around us, have you checked your humanity before tackling a crisis communications plan?Click To Tweet
Whether you’re just starting out or are an experienced pro in crisis communications, we can all learn a thing or two from Bishop’s playbook:
- Remember your humanity in the seemingly inhuman moments
- Recognize opportunity even when it doesn’t seem attainable
- Be honest whenever possible with whomever possible, even if it’s just to yourself
- Fail to fail again to ultimately fail better
No one wishes for a crisis communications situation, but when faced with what seems like unsurmountable adversity, keep this advice from one of my favorite writers in mind. H.G. Wells said, “The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” So, stay calm, be confident in what you already know, expect that there’s always something to be learned “as you go,” and believe that tomorrow will be better.