“The secret of crisis management is not good vs. bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.”
— Andy Gilman
Have you ever tried to get media attention about a positive news story? Perhaps you’re hosting a charitable event, want to highlight a local hero, or know about something cool happening in your community that could benefit others. If so, you may have wondered why negative stories seem to dominate the headlines, even in times of relative peace and calm.It may seem that it’s because people find bad news more interesting than good news, but it’s more likely due to the science of our brains. The National Academy of Sciences determined that our human bias toward consumption of negative information might be a large part of what drives negative news coverage.
That explain some of the frustrations of public relations, but happens if you are at the center of the bad news? What if your brand is at the center of the negative news story? While media crises are rare, the stakes are impossibly high when they do occur and brands must prepare themselves to address issues with a rapid response. That’s why it’s so important to develop a robust crisis playbook with predefined protocols and communication strategies for swift action without compromising sensitivity, brand goals, or coherence.
In today’s interconnected, rapid-fire media landscape, media crisis can erupt from a seemingly endless list of sources, including a break-in, fire, or scandal or even a well-intention social media post by an employee. Regardless of where or how it starts, a media crisis has the potential to spiral faster than most organizations can manage on their own once it becomes public.
Strategies for Effective Crisis Management
- Have a Robust Crisis Management Plan: Very few small businesses invest the time or resources to provide media training to their teams, which is a missed opportunity for positive and negative media exposure. A comprehensive communications plan should make sure that the entire team understands the chain of command and how to activate it when necessary. It should also include parameters for what team members are and are not authorized to say on behalf of the company, either in person or online.
- Respond Promptly: While it’s important to act swiftly in a crisis, business owners should be careful to avoid rushing to respond which could exacerbate the problem or create confusion. Instead, make sure that your communications planning session includes some brainstoming beforehand so that the response doesn’t have to be made up from scratch.
- Prioritize Stakeholder Communication: Tailor your responses to your stakeholders, especially employees and clients and make sure that they feel as informed and empowered as possible under the circumstances.
- Balance the Online and On-the-Ground Response: So much of the conversation about modern marketing centers on social media or other online channels. But it’s important for brands to resist the temptation to make these digital channels the center of their focus. In fact, there are situations where less can be more with regards to posts and updates. At a minimum, your audience needs to see that you ackowledge the situation, are taking full responsibility, and will keep them informed. Bottom line: When it comes to your communications, prioritize the humans and how they will interpret the message not the algorithms or channels. The time for going viral isn’t as you’re battling a media crisis.
- ever, these relationships must be genuine and value-driven to withstand public scrutiny. Post-crisis, resilience stems from
- Choose the Right Spokesperson: The ideal PR spokesperson should have a deep understanding of your company, be articulate, think on their feet, be comfortable under pressure, and resonate with your stakeholders. You may opt to choose different spokespeople depending on the type of media engagement. Whoever is selected, they should be in a position that is accountable for outcomes and well prepared for media.
- Avoid Jargon: Your public statements must be clear and free from complex terminology or statements that may come across as defensive.
After the dust settles, it’s not about moving on and forgetting. It’s about taking a good, hard look at what happened, how you handled it, and what people thought about it. Learning from these moments, making changes, and planning ahead is what helps you bounce back stronger and more trusted than before. It’s this mix of planning, acting fast, teaming up with your brand’s fans, and learning from it all that means not just getting through a social media crisis but coming out of it even better.
Negative media events can be challenging, but they don’t necessarily spell doom. With a robust crisis management plan and timely action, companies can weather the storm and even emerge stronger. As seasoned PR professionals emphasize, honest, responsible, open, and authentic communications are key to earning trust. Remember to reassure stakeholders of your company values and the reasons they initially trusted your brand – that is the foundation of successful crisis navigation.