Managing Crisis Communications in the Digital Age

Managing Crisis Communications in the Digital Age

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it – Warren Buffet
We live in a digital age where a tweet can become newsworthy and gather momentum at the speed of lightning and before you know it you are trending on social media and the mainstream media have picked up the story before you can blink!  If you do not have a well-defined and current crisis communications plan incorporating a social media policy, you are in trouble.

If you don’t communicate immediately, you lose your greatest opportunity to control events. The mantra for any crisis is to tell it all, tell it fast and tell the truth – speed is of the essence in order to mitigate brand and reputational damage!

The questions don’t do the damage – only the answers do!
In our fast-paced digital world where communication continues to evolve, managing your organisation’s reputation needs to be a priority that like any business process, is structured and well planned, considering all eventualities. Do not wait until a crisis hits to try and develop a plan – it will be far too late and totally ineffective.
Preparing for a reputational crisis needs to start at executive board level and permeate right down through an organisation with everyone’s roles and responsibilities clearly defined. When a crisis arises the organisation needs to be agile and able to communicate with speed and accuracy across all communication channels both traditional and more especially digital platforms with particular emphasis on social media. Do not underestimate the speed at which information travels across social media and the ensuing damage that it can cause to your reputation if not managed correctly.

Managing your organisation’s reputation can be achieved through the following 5 key areas:

  1. Preparation

    You must have a detailed crisis communications plan and everyone within the organisation must know their role within this plan. In addition, as part of your communications policy you must have a social media policy that all staff have been made aware of and have signed.

  2. Foundation

    Your staff form the basis of this foundation, followed by your customers or members, if you are an association, suppliers and then the media including your followers on social media and bloggers. You also need to be aware of negative influencers. When you are working on a crisis consider what the most effective method of communication would be for each group.

  3. Monitoring and Evaluation

    You need to have processes in place to monitor both your traditional media coverage as well as online coverage to ensure you are kept abreast as the crisis develops. Online monitoring is important as it provides a gauge as to the conversations about your organisation. This monitoring gives you an understanding of perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.

  4. Action

    During the crisis it is important to speak with a strong voice to show that you are in control and have a plan. This is aimed at counteracting the narrative on both social and traditional media. While press releases and news conferences are important, you need to act quickly to meet expectations for content that exists online. Your website and social media channels, are important channels of communication in which you can frame the issue from your perspective, address any misinformation and, if needed, apologize for a situation providing a clear plan of action going forward.

  5. Review

    As with everything it is important to review the efficacy of your processes after the event to see if there are any areas or processes that could have been improved on in order to better prepare for the next crisis that your organisation may face.

There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly. What is important is to have a detailed strategy and documented processes in place that makes it easier to deal with.

At SWM Communications we have prepared Crisis Communications Processes and Plans, as well as Social Media Policies for a number of industry organisations. We have also assisted these organisations through a number of crises and therefore have the expertise to assist you!