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Inside the Crisis Communications Command Center: What You Need To Know

Inside the Crisis Communications Command Center: What You Need To Know

We’ll go beyond the do’s and don’ts of crisis communications planning and take a deeper, behind-the-scenes look into real crisis situations. Hear from two experienced PR professionals who will share real-world (off the record, please) examples of how actual crisis situations were handled.

Some made headlines, others did not. Not all went well. Is your plan still in a three-ring binder? Does it incorporate social media? During the first segment our presenters will walk through crisis planning steps, including actual examples of what to include in your plan. The real-world segment will give attendees an insider¹s view into what it¹s really like to balance the needs of management with the demands of the media – and those on social media.

In this three-hour workshop, you¹ll find out:

  • How to convert your paper-based crisis plan to one accessible via mobile device
  • The most important – yet challenging – aspect of crisis response
  • Common roadblocks by your own executives and ways to overcome them
  • A written plan is just the start; what staff skills and training are needed?
  • Tips on locating your crisis command center and what you¹ll need there
  • How to be ready for your crisis to be live-tweeted
  • Spokespeople and their roles and preparation

Our Workshop Presenters:

You’ll hear from Dan Dunne, APR, of Erickson Living, an expert in media training and crisis communications. Dunne has many years of experience in public relations and crisis communications. Joining him will be Jeffrey Davis, APR, managing director of the Baltimore office of Van Eperen and a former journalist whose crisis PR experience includes allegations of sexual harassment against an organization¹s leader, issues management in connection with Duke lacrosse case, and a tragic death at a national ski resort. Click here to read more about our presenters.

*Registration will be limited to 30.

Effective Crisis Management – Catastrophe or Opportunity?

Written by PRSA Maryland Communications Committee member Caitlin Wolf.

If I told you that a crisis is an opportunity for businesses to increase shareholder value, would you believe me?

Walking into PRSA’s “Introduction to Effective Crisis Response” seminar in Chicago on May 22, I viewed crisis management as an overwhelming, fast-paced communications task that meant hours of anxiety. Far from an opportunity. The workshop, led by Helio Fred Garcia and Adam Tiouririne of the Logos Institute, was an eye-opening experience that left my colleague and me confident that we could use crisis management to create a powerful competitive advantage for our clients.

Advantage? Yes. At a moment when all eyes are on your company, you have more control than you think. When done right, your ability to manage crises can have a positive impact on your brand’s bottom line. In fact, based on research by Knight and Pretty with the University of Oxford, companies that respond to crises well not only protect their stock price, but increase it, by an average of five percent. On top of its stock, a company’s reputation, operations, employee morale, demand for products and services, and strategic focus are protected when crises are handled well.

So, how can you go about managing crises the right way? Here are four key steps PR practitioners at any business should follow:

Know the patterns.
Bad things happen, even to good people and organizations. It’s what you do next that counts. Historically, there are approaches that always work and those that never work. Understand the patterns by studying crises and harvest the learnings—especially those occurring in your industry. How did the company respond? When did they respond? How was it received? Once you know this, understand you must intervene early enough to change the pattern.

Know what to ask.
When your CEO runs to you and asks, “What should we say?” you must begin by knowing which questions to ask. To regain the trust of your stakeholders, the most important question to ask is “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a reasonable organization to do in this situation?” Don’t be burdened by the thought that a common-sense solution won’t work.

Know what to say, and when.
Once you have the answer to your question, keep in mind that the single biggest predictor of reputational harm in a crisis is the perception that you don’t care. Craft responses to the “what reasonable people expect” question at the granular level for each stakeholder group. Communicate these responses in a timely way that shows you care.

Gain first mover advantage.
Whoever is first to define the crisis, the company’s motives, and their actions wins. Don’t let the media be the first to define these. Be prepared by establishing a crisis response plan. Craft well-structured standby statements ahead of time that address acknowledgement of potential crisis events, frame your organization’s values, your approach for addressing the event, the actions you plan to take, and next steps for your company and stakeholders.

Having a structured crisis management plan makes courage (and anxiety) less necessary. When done right, you will remain calm, regain the trust of your stakeholders; and, your stakeholders will likely reward you for demonstrating skill during a time of catastrophe.


Caitlin is PR Account Director for Planit.

Four Tips on Social Media Crisis Communications

This post was written by Laura Crovo, SVP, Public Relations Director of MGH
http://mghus.com
http://mghus.com/blog
http://facebook.com/mghus

 Earlier this year, a survey from German consultancy Gartner Communications found that while nearly 85% of companies worldwide have general crisis plans in place, only 20.7% have social media crisis plans set. Moreover, a staggering 78.6% of in-house communicators said they were pretty unprepared or so-so when it comes to social media crises.

What this shows is that more and more brands are embracing the importance of social media marketing, without adequately preparing for the risks. This isn’t to say that brands shouldn’t be jumping headfirst into Facebook, Twitter and the like – they just need to treat them as they would any other communications avenue by making sure they are ready to tackle any challenges.

Several major brands have been dinged via social media recently – whether it was due to a product deficiency, customer service problem or employee transgression. But, what’s added insult to injury in many of these crisis situations are slow, inadequate and insincere responses to the calamities at hand – probably due in large part to a lack of social media crisis preparedness.

So, what should brands do?

  • Stop looking at “general crisis communications” and “social media crisis communications” as two different things. When planning for catastrophes, you need to think about all possible implications – including media coverage, internal dissent, social media furor and upset stakeholders. Whether it’s sending an email to your staff, responding to a reporter’s questions or posting to your Facebook page, all of these tactics need to be treated as equally vital in the communications process. 
     
  • Be prepared before hitting the launch button for the Facebook page. This is a critical part of the social media process. Brainstorm all of the possible critiques or problems, and develop potential responses or messaging so you don’t waste precious time that could escalate a social media snafu. For instance, if your business is a restaurant, be prepared to deal with claims that your food stinks, your servers are rude, your prices are outrageous, and your daily special gave someone food poisoning.
     
  • Pay attention – all of the time – to what people are saying about your company and where they are saying it. Even if you don’t have a Facebook page, brands need to understand that there’s always a chance that people will talk about you online. Each comment needs to be evaluated individually to determine whether, how and when you should respond. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, you should be transparent, gracious and accountable (as appropriate).
  • Respond in a prompt manner. The world of social media moves much faster than traditional communications, and any lag can just serve to fuel the fire. Similar to how you would respond to a media query in traditional PR, it’s important to quickly address issues on the web, even if only to let you your consumers know that you are taking the issue seriously and looking into resolving it.

PR and social media are not mutually exclusive – and this could not be more evident than when it comes to crisis communications. Companies must take the time now to develop plans to handle situations whether in traditional or social media platforms, or else they could be found on the wrong side of a really angry and vocal Facebook contingent.

How Would You Handle Toyota’s Crisis Communications?

“Quality was [Toyota’s] differentiator and now it’s their Achilles heel,” says Brenda Wrigley, chair of the public relations department at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her comments appeared in a Forbes article this week, which draws a partial comparison between Toyota’s handling of the current PR crisis involving faulty accelerator pedals to Johnson & Johnson’s text-book handling of their 1982 PR crisis involving Tylenol bottles that were tampered with and poisoned. (J&J immediately recalled 20 million bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol from store shelves and replaced them with new product in tamper-proof packaging, sending a clear message to the public that it values consumer safety over profits.)

Over the past two weeks, Toyota has issued recalls on millions of cars, stopped production of eight of its models at plants across the globe, and ordered dealers to pull cars off their showroom floors. The problem with the accelerators isn’t entirely new, but it has rapidly escalated into a crisis. Some critics say that Toyota, in its aim to be the world’s top car manufacturer, has outgrown its quality control measures, thus undermining the essence of its brand.

What do you think? Are Toyota’s current crisis management efforts sufficient to maintain consumer confidence in a brand that has been synonymous with quality? What message is the current recall and halt on production sending to consumers? Is Toyota’s handling of the problem comparable to J&J’s handling of the Tylenol crisis? How would you handle the current crisis?

Visit Toyota’s Web site for official information about the recall.

Tips for Dealing with the Changing PR Landscape

Planning for PR programs in 2010 will be more difficult than in past years because of the dynamic and continually changing PR landscape.

frankstrong

Choose one: (a) strongly disagree, (b) disagree, (c) unsure, (d) agree, (e) strongly agree. Fifty percent of public relations professionals surveyed chose (e) agree, according to Frank Strong, public relations director for Vocus. Strong addressed PRSA-MD members Thursday morning at the University of Baltimore (left), where he discussed some of the factors that make PR planning increasingly difficult, and what you can do about it. Here are a few of my takeaways.

Maintain your media relationships. Last year 293 newspapers folded, 1,226 magazines disappeared, 10,000 radio employees were cut, and 100 TV stations were affected by Chapter 11. In short, massive job loss. Where are all these editors and reporters going? Some of them are getting into PR, but many are going to online publications. Wherever they move, they’ll land somewhere and may continue to be relevant contacts. So don’t let your relationships go. You never know where a sacked reporter might resurface.

Master SEO and other new media tools. Attention is the new deficit, and social media can help break the threshold. Increasingly, PR professionals are giving testimonials about how their blog or tweet or discussion board made a difference for their organization or a client. It’s not just about the message anymore. We need to think beyond text, giving more consideration to  posting videos, engaging readers in conversation, tagging and, above all, SEO. Figure out which social media tools are appropriate for your organization—and learn how to use them. (Note: SEO is a must for every professional communicator’s toolbox!)

Learn crisis communications. You’ll need it. Up until now, the prevailing wisdom has been that crisis communications should be left to specialists. While this may still hold true for major crises, it’s also true that social media leaves everyone exposed to previously nonexistent dangers. Know how to respond when a customer or employee launches a withering attack at your organization or its leadership. You may not be able to control it, but you need to know how to deal with it, or better yet—prevent it.

Integrate your communications. Social media’s rejection of commercialization makes PR central to an organization’s communications efforts. Users can sniff out marketing copy, but a good PR professional knows how to connect to people with authenticity—in other words, without selling. Okay, so does a good marketer, but relationships are the essence of PR. It’s not worth considering which of these two functions is more important. They’re both important for many organizations. A better question to ask is, How can PR and marketing work together?

For more information on this topic, check out Frank Strong’s whitepaper, Meeting Change: Public Relations Planning in 2010.

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