United Airlines, Fyre Festival and the Kendall Jenner Pepsi debacle were just a few of the big communication crises to occur in 2017. As the new year begins, it's a good idea to review your own crisis communications policies and plans, to ensure you don't suffer the same fate as the huge brands whose names became damaged, some irrevocably. Here are some top tips to ensure your crisis communications go as smoothly as possible.
1) Take a look back at the past year
The best communication professionals learn from their own and other's mistakes. So it's essential at the beginning of a new year to take a look back at the previous 12 months to see which PR tactics went well, and which need to be changed.
This is no different for crisis communications. If your company experienced something of a PR disaster, have a think about what succeeded and what elements could be improved. Central to any review should be asking yourself the question – how well did information flow? If it didn't, you need to take a look at why and come up with a suitable fix. Changing spokespeople and primary contacts is often the solution to this.
2) List potential threats
While you never know what might come up in the course of PR, you can always make a pretty good guess. It's therefore a great idea to list potential threats that could occur in the course of the following year. Use crises that have occurred in your same industry or to competitors for inspiration.
If you've already done this, take a look at the ones you currently have and see if there are any that need to be updated. For instance, now cybersecurity has become an issue for many companies, the risk of an attack has increased substantially.
Once you've come up with your list of threats, you can create individual plans and prepare statements so that, if one does occur, you will be able to respond much more quickly. This means there's no waiting around to let customers know what you plan to do to fix any issues that arise. It's this waiting that can be the most damaging part of a communication crisis.
Statements should include an acknowledgement of the situation, a mention of the company's values, your approach towards solving the problem and finally your expectations for results. Just make sure whoever delivers the statement comes across as caring and concerned about the crisis.
3) Bear in mind the golden hour
The first hour after an incident occurs is often called the golden hour. Your company's response during this time can stop the spread of a story or make it completely spiral out of control depending on how you deal with the crisis. This means you should take particular care preparing your initial statements and have plenty of points of contact listed in your crisis communications plan.
If, for example, a story breaks and you've only listed one person who can deal with it, and he or she happens to be on a long-haul flight, by the time they land and can be briefed the story will already be out there and people will be commenting.
4) Media monitoring
There are a variety of tools you can set up to help with media monitoring. They'll normally send you automatic alerts if your company's name or industry is mentioned in the press. If you already use them, take a look at your settings and ensure the keywords and channels you're monitoring are still relevant.
Depending on the tactics you take, your crisis can end up completely ruining your brand or barely making an incision into your reputation. It's all up to how you prepare.
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