The on-demand, on-the-go world that we all live in means that news breaks faster than ever. Information is accessed and shared on the phone, via tablets, on laptops, at home and in the office.
Rumours and negative comments can spread in a matter of seconds. Re-tweets, likes and favourites mean that a single message can travel around the world at the click of a button or two.
When it comes to a crisis the speed of communication means that a change of mind-set is required for all of those who are tasked with managing an issue and protecting the reputation of a brand.
Take the horsemeat scandal as an example. The story first broke in January 2013. Within just six weeks of initial reports, horsemeat had been mentioned on social media more than 200,000 times!
A rush to action rarely leads to the best of results but there is no doubt that faster response times are now required. Gone are the days that organisations can control an emerging issue with carefully timed press conferences and statements that, either coincide with, or often avoid a journalist’s deadlines.
Ready - Effective planning ahead of time is vital.
Steady - Plans are only effective if news, conversations and changing events are closely monitored.
Go – Clear leadership of a well-trained team working to up-to-date and accessible plans leads to effective action.
Start with an audit of existing plans and processes. This should include a full review of plans, manuals and contact lists.
Essential documents should be shared across senior teams and easily accessible at all times, even out of hours.
Clear leadership is required for effective crisis management and for that crisis and business continuity teams need to be put in place with roles and responsibilities assigned and clearly defined.
An organisation that isn’t tracking what is being said online as well as on traditional media outlets, is putting its reputation at risk.
Media relations matter and can make a positive difference when a brand needs to put its side of the story across. An up-to-date list of the journalists who are writing about relevant topics should be a must-have in every crisis management toolkit. Good relations with sector experts and those who are influential in the industry are equally important.
Every member of the crisis team should be trained in order to build up confidence. Crisis and business continuity plans should be thoroughly tested and company spokespeople should be media trained at least once a year.
When a crisis does break or the smooth running of the business is threatened the pressure is on and time is of the essence. Systems are needed to make sure that senior teams can be contacted as quickly as possible. Those essential documents and contact lists need to be easily accessible at any time.
Working with trusted advisors, who know you and your business, provide a valuable sounding board and remove some of the inevitable pressures.
Pre-prepared releases, positioning statements and social media messages, all of which will have been highlighted and fine-tuned by advisors, can quickly be made ready to go, to speed up those response times.
Nine out of ten senior managers admit to having already gone through a crisis at some point during their careers. Difficult situations do happen so taking notes in the heat of the moment is highly recommended. These notes will aid the post-crisis review which is a must-do in order to make sure you learn from the experience.
For more information and advice about crisis management, read about the Core approach to crisis and reputation management.
Keith Beech is director of Core Management – Crisis, Organisation and Reputation which is part of the Nexus Communications Group.