The evolution of social media has changed the pace at which we receive information. Technology research and analysis firm Gigaom noted that Twitter has turned the 24-hour news cycle into a two-hour news cycle that constantly resets itself. It’s no wonder, then, that news organizations are on a steady quest to be “first” … sometimes at the risk of being right.
So, what does the news cycle have to do with crisis management? Everything, of course. In a crisis, having the right team in place to share the right information is the difference between brand salvation and brand sabotage.
That said, here are the steps you need to take when—not if—a crisis lands at your door.
1. Identify and Assemble Your Team
In a perfect world, identifying your crisis management team would be as simple as thumbing to the correct page in your crisis manual. In the absence of that, you must quickly assemble a team of key players who will help navigate all aspects of your crisis. This could include your CEO, department heads, a public relations representative, legal advisors and others, depending on the type of crisis you are dealing with.
2. Information Gathering
There may not be a more critical step during a crisis than this. It’s imperative to collect information and develop a timeline of what has transpired. What you know will help determine what you do.
3. Determine the Type of Crisis
Is there a health or safety issue? Will there be legal or regulatory concerns? Is your organization’s reputation at stake? Will this halt or hamper business operations? Will the media care?
4. Identify Your Audience(s), Message(s) and Medium(s)
This is not a one-size-fits-all step. First, identify who your audience is and then craft your messages. Depending on where you are in the information gathering stage, your messaging may need to happen in phases (what you know now vs. what you learn along the way). Determine what medium(s) you will use to deliver your message … it may take time to enable your dark site, so Facebook or Twitter might be the best medium for your initial message dissemination.
5. Inform and Enlist Stakeholders
Your employees are your front line. And, though they won’t likely be your media spokesperson, they should still be prepared to deliver consistent, approved messaging that you have provided.
6. Evaluate and Recalibrate
As you move through the stages of crisis management, it’s important to take time to evaluate any feedback or new information you’ve received and adjust your messaging, as needed.
In addition to the steps above, consider these two critical rules of thumb for successfully managing a crisis:
- Act Fast, but Don’t Be Hasty.
Even if all you can do is acknowledge there has been an incident, that’s still better than radio silence. And, never, ever say “No Comment.”
- Be Transparent and Honest.
Say what you know and when you know it.
Remember, perception is often reality. How your customers perceive your response to a crisis will play a major role in your brand’s reputation moving forward.