Crisis Communications


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This presentation provides a unique view of crisis communications principles. It is based on the author's many years of experience in PR and corporate communications.

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  • These are not clean distinctions – in fact, they may represent more a continuum that a specific set of definitions Issues – everyone has them, we deal with them every day Accidents – everyone has them, most are covered by plans Emergencies – the difference here is a time element, or perhaps external forces that require you to decide or act Crisis – a decisive moment What is the relationship between these? Which is easiest to predict – and why?
  • Good leaders can get you by in an emergency, they can overcome bureaucratic org cultures Competent communications is definitely a plus Does anyone expect your relations with the press, community or other key audiences to improve in an emergency? If your reputation and media relations are no good, do not expect them to magically get better in an emergency Media relations, Community relations, relations with management
  • Your success or failure will likely be judged on how you treat those most affected by the crisis (all of them).
  • Crisis Communications

    1. 1. Crisis Communications:Preparing for Your 15 Minutes of FamePatrick Gibbons
    2. 2. When Opportunity Knocks…Some PR professionals work their whole lives trying togenerate national media attention. Some of us get it unexpectedly one day … and usually end up complaining about it. - Patrick Gibbons
    3. 3. Definitions Issue – a topic of discussion, a matter in dispute or a sensitive subject within an organization, industry or society Accident – an unexpected and undesirable event, usually one resulting in damage or injury Emergency – a serious situation or unexpected occurrence that demands immediate action and communication Crisis – a critical or decisive point at which an organization’s response to an issue, accident or emergency threatens the reputation and/or future standing of the organization Goal: Prevent issues, accidents and emergencies from becoming crises
    4. 4. Principles Reputations can be gained or lost during emergencies Emergency (crisis) communications is an extension of your normal communications – good and bad If you don’t fill the “news hole,” someone less qualified probably will Perception is reality – if you don’t like it, change it Knowing what to do is only half the battle The longer you wait to act, the higher the price
    5. 5. Why Crises Happen Management’s failure to understand the issue, public opinion Failure to effectively engage the media – allowing others to control the issue Failure to demonstrate control, concern and credibility Over-reliance on legal response/defense
    6. 6. The Crisis (News) Cycle Initial story – “facts” Follow-up (new details, angles, opportunities) Inappropriate management response (lack of trust) Management competence becomes the story (loss of credibility and control) Regulatory, political or board level reaction (blame and house cleaning) Coverage of investigation(s) and recovery Next time, anniversary coverage
    7. 7. Assessing Your Crisis Potential  Nature of your business  Nature, experience of your CEO  Prominence of your company  Organizational culture  Communication reporting structure  Status of current public relations  Do you have a plan?  Has it been tested?
    8. 8. Before Emergencies Strike Consider likely, unlikely scenarios Identify key staff members, roles Establish relations with external contacts Develop a plan - Objectives for each audience - Think, “How would we?” - Identify resources - Train, rehearse staff members
    9. 9. When ‘Stuff’ Happens Fill the immediate “news hole” Collect, analyze the facts Assess newsworthiness – when, where is it news? Who are other likely news sources? What are they saying? Develop a strategy, messages – and communicate them Don’t let your silence become the story
    10. 10. Avoiding the Initial “No Comment”Even without facts, you should be able to express:  Awareness – “We are aware of/not aware of…”  Concern – “We are concerned about (or are taking seriously) reports of …”  Commitment – “Once we have the facts, we will take appropriate action …”
    11. 11. Assessing News Value  Prominence  Oddity  Timeliness  Sex  Impact  Suspense  Proximity  Progress  Conflict  Trends  Emotion  Visuals Goal: Address and reduce news value
    12. 12. Three C’s of Success  Control – Take appropriate action, explain it  Concern – Demonstrate concern, compassion  Credibility – Know the facts – Be first with the news – Build trust
    13. 13. Dealing with News Media Labels – what are we calling this? Develop an approval process, one set of facts Briefings or interviews? Be helpful, instructive, polite – but always firm Reach out to third parties for credibility Listen for news, concerns Good relationships are made in bad times
    14. 14. It Is Not About Answering Questions Prepare talking points Make statements about the issue Explain your company’s perspective Shape the story
    15. 15. Starting Points for Good Responses “Our primary concern at this point is… “What I can tell you right now is… “At the moment, our primary focus is… “The important thing at this point is… “I think a more accurate term is _____ (and then explain why) …
    16. 16. Dealing with Social Media
    17. 17. Dealing with Social Media Part of your strategy, but not the driver Valuable resources for:  Monitoring, listening  Sharing perspective  Interacting with users/customers/clients Can be a time/resource “vampire” Choose those that work for your business Interact with professionalism, authenticity
    18. 18. Major Accidents or Emergencies Confirm/assign staff responsibilities Plan for sustained media presence, coverage – develop a briefing schedule Find daily news peg, story angle – think “what’s next?” Be first with the news (internal and external) – shape the story Prepare your spokesperson Look for good news – offer “behind the scenes” access, if appropriate Use all your tools – e-mail, website, YouTube, photo releases Don’t forget internal communications Pace yourself, key staff
    19. 19. If/When It Gets Really Bad Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing ‘they’ can do?” Volunteer for the second worst quickly Announce the decision to do soThe longer you delay, the higher the cost –$$ and reputation
    20. 20. Working with Legal Counsel Same team, different perspectives Equally critical in emergencies Tactics – Build relationship in advance, gain trust – Highlight bad examples elsewhere – Understand legal concerns, present options – Bottom line – the boss needs both perspectives
    21. 21. When the Storm Passes  Thank those (inside and outside) who helped  Reward and congratulate successes  Collect lessons learned  Track issues, think about next news peg – memorial, anniversary?
    22. 22. Keys to Success Build relations with key people in advance Have a plan, communicate it Fill the immediate “news hole” Try to stay ahead of the news Use all your resources – staff, website, social media Learn for next time
    23. 23. Questions or more information:Patrick