“Crisis communications plans are everything.” This should be a phrase given by each and every one of the strategic communications professionals upon working on an organization’s communications plans. Hours and days and years of hard work in the media, online, and a good social media presence will not save your organization from a bad reaction in a crisis. Your target audience is looking to you in a disaster, scandal, or potentially embarrassing situations to determine if you are being truthful and if you are prepared. You don’t want to be caught with honesty and a plan.
With the rapidly developing technology and digital media platforms it would seem to be a certainty to be a major part of any crisis communications plan and agenda. However I believe that it would be unwise for a business not to choose to use social media as a part of their media plan and strategic communications agenda. However if the organization is not prepared online then it could cause confusion and add to any crisis that were to come along that could threaten the image of the organization. I believe that before an organization can be successful online they must have a cohesive crisis communications plan and if they do not have one yet then it is probably not wise for them to be maintaining a social media presence. When an organization doesn’t have a plan they are more likely to make mistakes due to lack of cohesiveness and general murkiness over the message to convey. However from a business standpoint this could be disastrous for the image of the company and seem like they cannot maintain a professional decorum on social media. This is why I say organizations should wait until they have a clear plan and standards before jumping online and risk more damage because of ineffectual or inaccurate communications.
For a fresh example let’s look back on United’s most recent incident where a passenger was escorted dragged off his flight and United refused to accept any responsibilities and then later walked back on all their previous statements. My favorite quote was from the United CEO in his press release when he stated, ” We had to re-accomodate the passenger”. Now…let that sink in for a moment. Re-accomodate is the terminology you would like to use right now? Maybe reaccomodate his face after it struck the seat armrest and bloodied up his face? Is this reaccomondating? Either way you look at the issue United handled the situation extremely poorly with millions commenting and making posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Shirts have been made to joke and make fun of the situation for goodness sakes.
I wonder if things might have turned out differently if United had watched this informative video showing why it is highly important for airlines to have a 30-second crisis communications plan. With the day and age of highly communicative and digitally accessible passengers airlines need to be prepared to help guide the public and the direction of the conversation. If the CEO had accepted responsibility sooner, if they had supported those questions asking about the man’s health, and if they had appeared to be on the same page then maybe they could have avoided such a disaster.
Another example of bad crisis communication is during the holiday season of 2015 when Bloomingdale’s decided to print an ad saying “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking” showing a young woman laughing and looking away when a man gives her a smoldering glare. Social media jumped onto the case quickly proclaiming that Bloomingdale’s was supporting date rape and seemingly overnight social media had the ad trending and Bloomingdale’s had yet to respond to the accusations and outrage. When a spokesperson finally spoke about the matter they took responsibility and did a wonderful apology but the key was that they were too late. Irreparable damage had already been done to the companies image because of the lengthy delay.
As we can see there are plenty of examples of horrible crisis communciation plans. However how can we establish an effectual plan for our organization? Bernstein Crisis Management wrote an articles explaining the ten major steps.
- Anticipate the Crisis
- Identify your Crisis Communications Team
- Identify and Train Spokespersons
- Spokesperson Training
- Establish notification and monitoring systems
- Identify and know your stakeholders
- Develop Holding Statements
- Assess the Crisis Situation
- Finilize and adapt key messages
- Post-Crisis Analysis
I think that this is a wonderful list of the neccessary steps to developing a protection plan for your organization when a crisis strikes because whether large or small something will inevitably come up and now.. you will be prepared.
As always leave questions or comments below and I look forward to seeing what you all have to think! Until next week!