Being Prepared In a Crisis Is the Key

Being Prepared In a Crisis Is the Key

Communication Public Relations | Judette Coward-Puglisi

May 7, 2014

Recently, a hurricane of activities threatened to flatten a client’s corporate reputation and forced Mango Media Caribbean to rethink the strategies that would allow us to handle the three week media crisis.

Looking back we would marry both the legal and the Public Relations issues earlier, and we would have paid for placements of position statements earlier, once we identified that the media, in its typical role of being defenders of the “underdogs”, would take an anti-corporate stance.

Still our client gave us top marks only because we were able to communicate our position effectively, 78 per cent of our statements were published, and our responses were swift and pointed. We believe our effectiveness was due to the fact that we were prepared. And you should be too, especially if you communicate in a volatile, union-driven or public sector environment

Here are some tips:

  • Collect data and keep it readily available: Find out which reporter is covering your industry and compile a database. Keep the data current. Our team has a wallet card sized crisis card with all the reporters’ numbers and email addresses. In a crisis it’s what we use for immediate referencing.
  • Keep your crisis room prepared with a working telephone, fax, and white board. Have the cell numbers of reporters and all stakeholders posted clearly as well as corporate facts and information. Our client had one of the best crisis rooms I’ve ever seen and one of their best practises is to provide continuously updated laminated 8×11 info cards to all members of the crisis team so that corporate information can be communicated quickly.
  • Keep all your crisis press releases and what has been reported about your company in one place. It will help you to stay on message or prepare you more readily just in case you have to divert from the stated position.
  • Build relationships with stakeholders, including the ones deemed difficult. It’s amazing how the tone of a conversation can shift when detractors are simply heard and engaged.
  • Monitor the online conversations with the intention of knowing what the client’s stakeholders care about, what keeps their community/fans up at night and what issues were emerging around the client’s and even their competitor’s brand. This negated the surprise factor.
  • Tighten your communication with journalists. In some cases simple introductions letting them know who you were in relation to your client’s brand, updating them about news on the industry, changes they needed to be aware of is good. Sometimes the tactics were deeper and much more meaningful.
  • Claim your client’s social media handles. There is no need for a crisis to do this. The now famed comedic quips by the BP’s illegitimate Twitter feed during the Gulf spill, (before the official one went public) as well as Patrick Manning’s sarcastic and self-indulgent tweet stream during the last elections (this too was begun by a clever and aware writer but certainly not the former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister) taught us the importance of that. Dark sites matter too, again there was no need to wait for a crisis to flare to populate the site and keep it hidden.
  • Offline, work the crisis plan to a skeletal level by sharing, discussing and stripping it until the crisis team understands the scenarios, the roles and responsibilities and the key messages

Preparing for a crisis is key so tell us, how prepared are you?