Today’s media is a pretty tough playground. If you’re a company, government agency, or prominent individual, you face a barrage of threats—ethical concerns, financial-market rumors, activist campaigns, class-action litigation, industrial accidents, as well as more subtle issues that can intensify to undermine a company’s ability to compete.

Media Frenzy - Paparazzi
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To handle these threats, clients call upon public relations firms. In 2009, on the heels of the financial crisis, a full two-thirds of public relations firms reported selling issues and crisis communications services to clients. From 2009 to 2012 firms have reported that crisis communications has accounted for approximately 5% of firm revenue.  Scour the headlines of any newspaper, and you’ll uncover key areas of crisis communications: civil litigation and criminal prosecution, corporate governance issues, privacy issues, merger/acquisition and bankruptcy, regulatory actions, government investigations, product liability and recalls, and workplace violence, to name a few.  Wherever and whenever crisis calls, public relations teams respond to tamp down the fire, protect their clients’ reputations, and sustain economic interests that in many cases have taken decades to build.

Nidhi Makhija, Senior Manager at MSLGROUP states in a recent MSLGroup’s Critical Conversation, “In our hyper-connected globalized world, we are seeing that reputation crises have the potential to grow faster, spread wider and hit harder than any time before.” She accredits this to two reasons, the global scale of organizations and social media.

Social Media

Social Media Mareting  ¿Qué es Social Media Marketing ?
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With so many companies taking advantage of social media as part of their communication strategy it makes sense that a social media crisis strategy should exist. While social media is useful as a platform for open dialogue between brands and consumers, there is an element of reputation danger. Remember the discreet comment boxes that allowed feedback to only be seen by management? That box has a few new names like Twitter and Facebook; oh and anyone can see what has been written.

Luckily, PR Firms know how to prepare clients for the day when there is a flux in service or a consumer waking up on the wrong side of the bed threatens their brand’s reputation.

Affect’s recently released white paper Crisis Management in the Social Media Age: A Guide to Integrating Social Media in Your Crisis Communications Strategy outlines four phases of crisis communications and the ten things they believe one should know, “..in order to leverage social media to manage and even prevent crises.”

The first phase of a crisis according to the Affect’s white paper is readiness,

      A sound crisis management strategy starts with preparation long before the onset of an actual crisis. While it’s impossible to plan for every future scenario, examine your company, facilities, people, products and environment to assess areas of significant risk and identify the potential threats that are both most likely to happen and most likely to cause harm. When a crisis breaks, things are going to accelerate and you need a solid response plan in advance in order for your organization to react quickly.

Text100’s digital expert Melissa Chanslor also states that preparation is key, “The first step of Crisis Communications 101 is about preparation.  Being prepared before a crisis actually happens – across all faucets of communication, including social media”. A prepared brand understands that a negative comment does not call for a fight or flight response. A prepared brand has a strategy, often structured by a PR firm, to respond to negative comments in a way that turns crisis into opportunity. Using an authentic and personal response, sharing relative content, and acknowledging people’s feeling is a powerful way to strengthen brand image. Responding in such a way opens dialogue to either change minds or agree to disagree. After a crisis has occurred the challenge is to act quickly and efficiently.

Having a strong social media presence is worth the risk especially when it can contribute to the recovery of offline crisis. Ogilvy Public Relations was able to do just that for BP during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

 

Image 1 credit ineedpublicity

Image 2 credit Fabian Medina