Last week AIMediaComms (to be known as Vuelio going forward) partnered with PRWeek and attended their Crisis Communications Conference. The event touched upon recent PR crises like the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash and Network Rail’s engineering works delays to show how organisations can effectively manage their crisis comms and implement best practice crisis management.
As extracted from the event, here are the experts’ top tips for media management and stakeholder engagement during a crisis:
Own your crisis. The team at Serco advised from their own crisis experience to set your facts right early on, and be as open as possible. Your organisation needs to position itself as a single point of truth that provides clear and timely information – don’t let others report on your behalf. Your audience won’t go to other social media and online news forums for information whilst you are the original knowledge source, meaning you are in control and can directly influence the scale and effects of the crisis.
Social media has changed everything. Instead of just reporting on the news, social media now dictates it. Online communication makes it harder to separate your audiences, so you need to provide information that is accurate, sensitive and accessible to all. In a crisis, use social channels to disseminate relevant information instead of directly engaging in conversation. It is also important to remember that social media is just one channel of an infinite number of digital and offline channels, so businesses can really benefit from comprehensive media management that covers all bases.
Walk in your customers’ shoes. Thomas Cook drew upon their first-hand experience of crisis management to emphasise the importance of projecting a human face rather than an unapproachable corporate brand. Incidents evolved into crises of the largest volume and greatest severity when involving ethics, regardless of whether the crisis was a direct fault of the organisation, and such a conscientious focus demands a personal response. An empathetic apology from someone in a position of authority can build a positive image in the eyes of consumers, and can act as a reputational buffer for your organisation.
Legacy is all. The reputation of a crisis can long outlive the effects of its original cause. A bad aggregated legacy is the result of a lack of regular positive communication with consumers, meaning that the world will only hear your voice when something goes wrong. Reputations take years to build up and only minutes to damage irreparably, so reputation management is vital in ensuring a strong organisational legacy.
Out of adversity comes opportunity. You can’t always anticipate every possible incident, but you can control how you react to it. No crisis happens in a vacuum: DFID and Save the Children pooled their resources when battling the Ebola crisis and proved that working together really does make you stronger. Encourage a ‘crisis culture’ in your organisation where all relevant staff are prepared for events of all possibilities and expect the unexpected. A crisis culture involving working together ensures a secure legacy and effective communication when you need them most.
Do you agree with our top tips, or are there other approaches organisations can take to improve their crisis communications? Has best practice crisis comms changed in recent years – and how?
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